By PAUL ANDERSON
A woman masquerading as a fruit seller got into the home of a Santa Ana family with her brother, but their home-invasion robbery plan went awry when one of the victims fought back and was fatally shot, an prosecutor told jurors today.
The attorney representing Gladys Romero, however, said police got the wrong woman.
Her 33-year-old brother, Alejandro Romero, will go on trial later this year.
Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin told jurors that Gladys Romero went to a market, bought some fruit and showed up at the door of a Santa Ana home on June 5, 2000.
Aracely Gomez, who answered the door, said she was not interested, but Romero asked if she could have a glass of water before leaving, Yellin said.
When the pregnant woman returned with the water, Gladys Romero and her brother were pointing guns at Gomez, Yellin alleged.
He said Gladys Romero directed Gomez to sit down on the couch and asked if anyone else was at home while Alejandro Romero began disconnecting the phones.
Gomez’s brother-in-law, Juan, was upstairs in the bathroom with his wife, Perla, and Gomez’s husband, Marcos, and his cousin, Alberto Lopez, were also in the house, Yellin said.
The four adults and two 3-year-old boys were bound with zip ties and put face-down on the floor, while Aracely Gomez was kept on the couch while the Romero siblings demanded money, Yellin said.
Gladys Romero used a knife to threaten Juan Gomez, saying, “If I have to kill you all, I’ll start with the kid,” Yellin alleged.
Alejandro Romero told the victims, “If you think my sister is bad, I’m worse,” Yellin alleged.
At some point, Juan Gomez managed to break out of the zip tie, leading to a struggle with Alejandro Romero, the prosecutor said.
“They’re both hitting each other. There’s a struggle for life,” Yellin said.
Juan Gomez cried out when he was shot in the leg, followed by a second round of gunfire — “and then Juan can’t scream” because the bullet ripped through his chest, Yellin said.
The siblings decided then to flee, but warned the victims not to follow them or they would kill the family, Yellin alleged. Aracely Gomez managed to reconnect a phone and dial 911, he said.
Police collected evidence at the scene, but the case went cold until 2010, when investigators received evidence that pointed them to Gladys Romero, Yellin said.
After the siblings were arrested in 2010, authorities said Gladys Romero had grabbed the wrong purse, leaving behind her own at the crime scene.
That DNA evidence, however, will not be presented at trial because crime lab investigators later heightened their standards and cannot testify that the genetic material on the purse was a definite match for the defendant.
Instead, Yellin will rely on the identification the four adult victims made when police had them look at a “six-pack” of photos of suspects.
In each photo line-up, variations of the defendants were sprinkled along with an actual picture of the suspect, Yellin said.
Gladys Romero allegedly told police that a dope dealer hired her to rob the house because one of the residents owed him money.
She also allegedly said the gunfire was accidental and that she got her brother involved in the heist, Yellin said.
Deputy Public Defender Lisa Kopelman said the prosecutor got most of the facts of the robbery right, except for the culprit.
“We don’t dispute that someone came into that house and attempted to rob this family,” Kopelman said, “except that Miss Romero did not commit this crime.”
The defense attorney advised jurors to “pay attention to the inconsistencies with descriptions and what each witness could see. You’ll see that the descriptions vary in very critical ways, and you’ll realize they’ve made a mistake in the identification of Miss Romero.”
Gladys Romero is charged with murder, kidnapping and burglary, with a special circumstances allegation of killing during a robbery and sentence- enhancing allegations of shooting a gun causing great bodily injury and death.