Merced man pleads not guilty in stabbing death of schoolteacher wife

10/01/2010 1:09 AM

10/01/2010 2:03 AM

In his first public appearance since the killing of his school- teacher wife, Rudy Romero pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder in a Merced County Superior Court room Thursday morning.

The 41-year-old Romero was found injured in his family's Tioga Court backyard on Sept. 16. The body of his wife, Diane Romero, a 44-year-old teacher at Peterson Elementary School, was found in the backyard in the family's pool. She had been stabbed numerous times.

Romero was taken to a local hospital to have his wounds treated on the same morning his wife's body was discovered.

Romero, who drove school buses for a living, was arrested by Merced police on Sept. 20.

Thursday's arraignment was the third that had been scheduled for Romero.

The case's prosecutor had little to say early in the case. "My thoughts go out to the family and the community," said Deputy District Attorney Rob Carroll. "We just want to make sure justice is done."

Rudy Romero's private lawyer, Jeffrey Tenenbaum, also declined to comment, since he said he had just begun reviewing the case's documents.

Dressed in a white- and orange-striped jumpsuit and bound in shackles, Romero stood in the courtroom for less than five minutes as the charges were read against him. Romero mostly conferred with his lawyer and didn't look toward the gallery where more than 19 people watched the proceedings. The only word that came from Romero's mouth was a muted "yes" after the judge asked him to verify that he had indeed heard and understood the charges against him.

Those charges were murder with an enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon.

Members of Rudy Romero's family watched Romero enter the courtroom, but had nothing to say about the case.

Judge Marc Garcia scheduled a pre-preliminary hearing in the case for Oct. 25 in Courtroom 2 at 10 a.m.

If convicted Romero faces 26 years to life in prison.

Reporter Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at (209) 385-2484 or

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