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    Anaheim man convicted of killing ex-girlfriend while awaiting trial on domestic violence case
    • May 29, 2024

    An Anaheim man was convicted Wednesday of killing his ex-girlfriend shortly after getting into a brawl outside a nightclub and while awaiting trial for a domestic violence attack against the same woman.

    An Orange County Superior Court jury deliberated for about a day and a half before finding Aaron Romo, 37, guilty of first-degree murder, among other charges, for beating and strangling 24-year-old Mirelle Mateus in the early morning hours of March 17, 2023.

    While Romo himself maintained his innocence at trial, both the prosecution and the defense acknowledged that the evidence indicated he was responsible for Mateus’ violent slaying. The question left for jurors was whether it was first-degree murder, as argued by the prosecution, or a lesser count of voluntary manslaughter, as countered by the defense.

    The prosecution pointed to Romo’s relationship history — which included five restraining orders and allegations of varying degrees of abuse from seven women — to paint him as a “physically violent” and “emotionally manipulative” man.

    “He can’t have what he wants,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Mark Birney told jurors last week. “And he has decided that Mirelle is what he wants. So he decides to manipulate her. And when manipulation doesn’t work, violence ensures.”

    The defense countered that Mateus’ death was the result of a “perfect storm,” as Romo’s intoxication from a night out with his friend and a head injury from losing a fight outside a club combined with built up “emotional tension” from his tumultuous relationship with Mateus.

    He did not plan this,” Defense attorney Ricardo Nicol told jurors. “This is not what he wanted. It was a rash decision made in the heat of passion.”

    Mateus’ relationship with Romo seemed to end on Dec. 5, 2022, when Romo was accused of battering Mateus and throwing her over a patio balcony at his luxury Anaheim apartment in the 1900 block of Union Street. Romo was charged with domestic violence, posted bond to remain out of custody and was served with a restraining order barring him from contacting Mateus, who moved in with her mother in La Palma.

    In an effort to get Romo’s mind off of Mateus, a friend on March 16, 2023 persuaded him to come out for a drunken night out at the District Lounge in Orange.

    Romo’s efforts to hit on another woman were apparently unsuccessful, resulting in Romo getting slapped and thrown out of the club. Romo instigated a brawl outside the club, with cell phone video showing him getting knocked down and possibly temporarily unconscious.

    Romo called Mateus, begging her to pick him up from outside the club. She agreed, and drove him back to his Anaheim apartment.

    At the complex, Romo grabbed Mateus’ cell phone and may have seen messages on it from other men, according to testimony. A security guard later described Mateus resisting Romo’s efforts to get her into his apartment, recalling her telling Romo “I’m not crazy, I’m not going in there.” Romo “violently” pulled Mateus into his apartment, likely by the hair, the prosecutor said.

    The security guard called 911. Anaheim officers responded, but left after no one answered their repeated knocks on Romo’s door.

    Inside the apartment, the prosecutor said, Romo beat Mateus as she fought for her life and then strangled her. Blunt force injuries were found on her head, face, hands and a knee. Clumps of her hair were found in various parts of the apartment. Romo wrote on a bathroom mirror “I didn’t want this I love U I want to die Please.”

    Romo rode his motorcycle to another girlfriend’s residence in Temecula, threatened to kill himself and barricaded himself inside the apartment, getting into a standoff with Riverside County sheriff’s deputies.

    Mateus’ mother realized her daughter hadn’t returned home and learned she had been with Romo. The mother went to Romo’s apartment, where she found her daughter’s body in a bathroom.

    In Temecula, Romo’s girlfriend learned from a friend of Romo that Mateus was missing. The girlfriend later told deputies that when she asked Romo what happened he acknowledged killing Mateus. Romo was eventually convinced to leave the Temecula apartment and was treated for apparently self-inflicted lacerations on a forearm.

    Romo’s sentencing is scheduled for June 24. He faces life in prison.

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    ​ Orange County Register