A drug-using, paranoid man in Colorado said he was "told" he had to kill his 2-year-old cousin last month by an unnamed group who were threatening to harm the man's daughter, according to newly-released court records.
Roman Morales, 21, is accused of killing the toddler, Donnie Romelo Romero, on Sept. 21 at a Lakewood apartment where Morales and the little boy were staying with their extended family.
Just before noon that day, Donnie's mother, Tiffany Segura, called 911 to report the boy was missing from the apartment at 2565 S. Sheridan Blvd.
Police and family members were searching outside and inside the apartment when an officer found Donnie's body hidden in a plastic storage bin under a blanket and a pillow in a corner of the living room.
The toddler had an electrical cord wrapped several times around his neck. The officer removed the cord and found "ligature marks" around the child's neck and blood coming from his nose and mouth, according to an arrest affidavit.
The toddler's grandmother described the boy's body as "limp and lifeless." Officers began CPR and then fire paramedics transported him to Denver Health Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, the affidavit states.
Morales has been charged with first-degree murder after deliberation, murder of a victim under age 12 by a person in a position of trust and child abuse causing death. He's being held without bond at the Jefferson County Jail.
-- MORALES WAS ON METH, FAMILY SAYS --
Family members told police that Morales was a methamphetamine user who had been acting "very paranoid" lately. He was saying "the mob and the FBI were following him" and he urged family members to not use their phones and computer because the FBI was listening, the affidavit said.
Morales' mom, Melissa Vigil, told police that her son believes his grandfather is an ex-gang member or ex-mafia member. She said he had been taking photos at his grandfather's house and said the pictures "mean something in code." Morales also told his mother that a diamond pattern in a carpet that he photographed "are symbols of a cult."
The suspect's mother said Morales "was just being paranoid and that the meth was taking over his thoughts."
Morales has a history of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse along with burglary and theft arrests, according to court records. He had just been released from jail a week before the boy was killed.
According to the affidavit, Morales told his mother "he was going crazy and that people were out to get him and that something really bad was going to happen."
An adult cousin living in the apartment, Andrew Olguin, 28, told police that Morales told him he thought the phone was bugged and that "everyone in the house was going to die."
-- MORALES ASKED TO WATCH DONNIE --
Donnie's mother, Tiffany Segura, had spent the night at the apartment with the toddler and her three older children.
Morales' mom and Donnie's mom are sisters. Just before the killing, they had been talking about getting Morales help and taking him to the hospital.
Despite these worries, Morales' mother told her son to watch Donnie that morning while she and her sister (Segura) took the older children to school.
The two adults sisters returned home later that morning and took turns taking showers.
Morales had apparently begun cleaning the kitchen and Donnie was in the kitchen, talking with Morales, according to Olguin.
Olguin said he then heard Donnie coughing, as if "something had gone down the wrong pipe." He heard what sounded like someone slapping Donnie on the back. Olguin asked Morales what was going on and Morales said Donnie was "choking on gummies," the affidavit states. Olguin heard Morales offer Donnie something to drink.
Sometime after 11 a.m., the suspect's mother, Melissa Vigil, came into the kitchen and found her son standing there wearing cleaning gloves. Vigil later told police Morales had been "acting strangely" that morning, saying he wanted to give Donnie a bath, even though the toddler's mom had already bathed him that morning.
-- PLASTIC STORAGE BIN OUT OF PLACE --
The mother said Morales looked nervous. He asked her to grab a black, red and white blanket from the living room. She handed it to her son, who began pushing the blanket into a black plastic storage "tote" in the kitchen.
Morales' mother said he was "very irritated" and quietly grunted as he pushed the blanket into the tote with both hands.
She asked her son what he was doing and he replied he was using the blanket to soak up some water he had spilled in the storage bin.
About this same time, Vigil asked where Donnie was. Morales said he was outside playing. Vigil told her son she didn't let the toddler play outside alone.
Donnie's mother, who had been in the shower, walked into the living room, realized the boy was missing and called 911.
Before police arrived, family members began searching for Donnie. But Donnie's mother said Morales just sat on the stairs.
Shirley Borjas, the grandmother of the toddler and the suspect, told police that during the search she saw a large plastic tote out of place in the middle of the living room -- it was normally stored in another room.
The grandmother told Morales to look in the tote to see if Donnie was in it. Morales said he had looked and boy wasn't in it.
She asked why the tote was in the living room. Morales said he was putting blankets away. The grandmother told police she handed Morales a blanket and he stuffed it in the tote.
Morales eventually went outside, got on his bike and rode away -- supposedly searching the neighborhood for the missing boy.
An officer looking for Morales found him walking on Lakeridge Road, just east of Sheridan Boulevard -- without his bicycle. Morales, who had been wearing a black tank top and black shorts when he left the apartment, was now shirtless. He was wearing the black shorts, a necklace, an ankle monitor, shoes and socks.
-- MORALES CALLED IN FOR QUESTIONING --
He was taken to Lakewood Police Department for questioning.
Morales told police he had awakened that morning and exchanged text messages with the mother of his daughter, seeking visitation with the girl. He said he had agreed to watch Donnie while his mom and aunt took the other children to school.
Police said Morales was reluctant to provide other details about his actions and observations that morning.
In response to investigators questions, he told police that he had been drying up water in a plastic tote used to store the kids' toys, because it was very dirty. He denied cleaning the tote used to store blankets.
Morales said Donnie had been choking on a gummy bear and Morales had tapped him on the back and the boy spit it out. "Roman (Morales) said this was no big deal," according to the affidavit.
As investigators kept questioning Morales, police said he became agitated and accused detectives of "trying to get him to slip up."
"When investigators explained to Roman his knowledge may be a small piece to a large puzzle he said, 'I have a piece but you're not going to get it,'" the affidavit states.
Morales then repeatedly asked to see his mother. Police let Melissa Vigil meet with her son into an interview room, which was being electronically monitored by investigators, the affidavit states.
Morales whispered to his mother, but they were comments that officers who were monitoring the conversation could not hear.
"Melissa then notified Roman that Donnie was dead and Roman placed his head down on the table," the affidavit states.
The son and his mother kept whispering, until Morales was heard cursing and threatening to "punch" his mother. Police said they ended the conversation for the mother's safety.
A detective took Vigil aside and asked her to repeat what they had been whispering.
She told the detective this was what they whispered:
Morales: "I was told to do it."
Vigil: "He was just a little boy -- he was innocent."
Morales: "Don't do this to me, mom."
Vigil: "What are you going to tell Auntie Tiff?"
Morales: "Don't do this to me, mom."
Morales: "They aren't going to let go are they?"
Vigil said her son then whispered an "odd comment" to her about receiving a hair brush with his daughter's name on it. "Roman told her, 'They were going to bash [his daughter's] skull in, they were going to hurt her. I was told to do what I did," according to the affidavit.
The affidavit doesn't say whether Morales explained who "they" were.
Shortly after saying this, Morales told his mother, "I'll punch your throat."
Police ended the meeting and arrested Morales.