LOS ANGELES, Calif. (KGET) – Almost one year to the date and the Romero family is still waiting for answers from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“At the end of the day we do realize we won’t be getting Luis back, but we do have a lot of questions that need to be answered and in order for us to move forward and grief we need answers for those questions,” said Dora Garcia, Luis Romero’s sister.
Luis Romero, 44, was gruesomely killed in his cell at Corcoran State Prison on March 9.
“In this case; one of the victim’s fingers was severed, a body part was cut out, his eye was removed and his head was decapitated,” said Kings County Assistant District Attorney, Phil Esbenshade.
The main suspect: the only person in the cell with him his cellmate – convicted killer Jaime Osuna.
“They called my sister that Luis had passed and that was basically it,” said Garcia. “That there was a homicide investigation and they couldn’t tell us any more information about his death. We actually buried Luis and didn’t know any of this had happened. My mom just happened to want a closed casket.”
The family says they learned the grisly details through KGET news reports. They say CDCR has not answered any of their calls.
“Maybe this is the only way they would answer,” said Garcia.
After months of consideration, the family filed a lawsuit against the institution. The suit, which seeks damages, lists the Secretary of CDCR, the warden of California State Prison, Corcoran and a sergeant working at the prison at the time.
“The lawsuit really focuses on CDCR being unnoticed, with respect to Mr. Osuna’s propensity for extreme violence,” said Justin Sterling, the Romero family’s attorney. “What we have learned is that there were prior instances where CDCR was on notice that Mr. Osuna had this insatiable desire to kill and that he would continue doing it, by his own admissions,”
KGET spoke with Osuna in 2011 after he was sentenced for killing and torturing a Bakersfield woman at El Morocco hotel.
“It goes to that knowledge requirement that CDCR either knew or should’ve known that conduct could’ve or would’ve continued if it wasn’t remedied,” said Garcia. “But, more important than that, the overriding question of how Mr. Romero and Mr. Osuna came to be in the same cell.”
The lawsuit argues the prison ignored a protocol that requires a committee to evaluate two inmates being celled together. It also lists the facility’s failure to conduct safety checks.
“How, how, how did they allow this to happen,” said Garcia. “Who was supposed to be watching? Everything that Jaime did to my brother, he needed time to do. Someone had to be watching them. We just don’t know how to feel.”
The family says they hope to not only get answers they’re looking for through the suit but also have CDCR acknowledge they messed up.
“I don’t want to wake up a few years from now and think I didn’t do anything to stand up to CDCR,” said Garcia. “And maybe this can help other families that are going through the same situation or will be going through the same situation.”
Luis Romero was serving a life-with-parole sentence after being convicted in Los Angeles County for second-degree murder n 1992.
We reached out to CDCR for comment, but have not heard back.
We spent months going over Osuna’s early life to try and understand what made him the person he is now. We also explored how his crimes changed the lives of people around him. It’s covered in our first true crime podcast “The Man with a Thousand Faces.”