Bus driver enters plea in wife's grisly slaying

MERCED -- In his first public appearance since his wife's death, Rudy Romero pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder in Merced County Superior Court on Thursday morning.

The 41-year-old Romero was found injured in his family's back yard on Sept. 16. The body of his wife, Diane Romero, a 44-year-old elementary schoolteacher, was found in the family's pool, stabbed numerous times.

Romero was taken to a Merced 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 Sept. 20. Thursday's arraignment was the third that had been scheduled.

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. He mostly conferred with his lawyer and didn't look toward the gallery where more than 19 people watched. The only word that came from Romero's mouth was a muted "yes" after Judge Marc Garcia asked him to verify that he had heard and understood the charges against him.

Those charges were murder with an enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon. If convicted, Romero faces 26 years to life in prison.