Kansas City police linked a Colorado convict to an unsolved rape from 1983 and arrested him this week, just hours before he was set to be released from prison.
Cold Case detectives Janna Eikel and Gary Snyder flew to Colorado on Wednesday to interview Arthur J. Romero, 51, after a DNA hit last week linked him to the rape and stabbing of a woman inside her Westside home nearly 29 years ago.
Just before the detectives departed Kansas City, they learned jailers were planning to release Romero, who is homeless.
“We knew we’d never see him again,” Eikel said.
A Colorado Springs detective with whom Kansas City police had been working halted the release until the detectives could fly out, interview Romero and pursue criminal charges. Jackson County prosecutors filed charges of forcible rape, assault and robbery Thursday. The court records were released Friday.
Romero was serving a six-year sentence for burglary. Authorities plan to extradite him to Missouri to face the new charges, which stem from an ambush inside a 51-year-old woman’s home in the 1200 block of West 21st Street on Dec. 2, 1983.
The victim returned home from work about 1 a.m. and discovered a man wearing a ski mask inside waiting for her. According to court records, he grabbed her around the waist, pressed a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her if she screamed.
He dragged her to a bedroom, where the woman had stashed a rolling pin for protection. She tried to use it to defend herself, but the attacker took it away, beat her with it then used his knife to stab her in the chest, abdomen and hand. He raped her and tried to sodomize her with the rolling pin. She pretended to pass out as he tied her up. He then rummaged through her house for valuables, taking $57 and two televisions. He also stole her car from in front of her house.
The victim summoned help from a neighbor. She was admitted to a hospital for her injuries. Police later found a broken window, which they believe was the attacker’s point of entry.
Romero was 22 when the rape occurred and lived with his parents, two doors away from the victim. Neighbors wondered at the time if he was involved, and someone called in his name to police as a possible suspect, police said. The victim heard the rumors, but nothing came of it because Romero denied involvement and police had no proof.
In the decades following the crime, Romero lived in several different states before landing in prison in Colorado.
Cold case detectives re-opened the case a few years ago and submitted DNA evidence to a national database. At that time, there were no links. But when Colorado authorities recently added Romero’s DNA to the national database, it matched evidence from the crime, according to court records.
Detectives last week visited the victim, who is now about 80, in her assisted living center to tell her about the break in the case. She told police she knew Romero was a neighbor, but didn’t really know him personally.
“She was glad to know we were bringing someone to justice,” Snyder said. “It’s one of the more brutal rapes that I’ve investigated because of the number of injuries. She tried to fight and protect herself, but he had a weapon.”