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Robbery defendant served time for murder

A man charged in connection with a Saturday robbery in Havre served nine years in a New Mexico prison for murder, a New Mexico official said Wednesday.

Jaime N. Romero, 33, of Taos, N.M., is being held in the Hill County Detention Center without bond after his arrest on charges of robbery by accountability, theft by accountability, and assault with a weapon by accountability. Romero is accused of driving the getaway vehicle for Zachary Lopez, 24, who is accused of stabbing and robbing a woman outside a local casino.

Lopez, of Santa Fe, N.M., has been charged with felony robbery and felony assault with a weapon, as well as misdemeanor theft. Lopez is being held on $50,000 bail. The two men, who are both from New Mexico, were apparently staying in Havre with the girlfriend of one of the men, Assistant Police Chief Mike Barthel said.

Havre police were called to the parking lot of a local casino about 10 p.m. Saturday after receiving a report that a woman had been stabbed. Witnesses said the woman was assaulted by a young man in an orange and red sweatshirt after she cashed a check at Gary & Leo's IGA, according to the criminal complaint filed in Hill County Justice Court.

Witnesses told police the man grabbed the woman's purse and told her to give it to him, then stabbed her with a knife in the face, arm and side, the complaint said. The man jumped into the passenger seat of a blue Ford Mustang with out-of-state plates, the complaint said.

Police received a tip that the suspects might be staying at the Hillview apartment complex, where they found a blue Mustang that matched the witnesses' description, the complaint said.

Police obtained permission to search one of the apartments, the document said. Romero and Lopez were found upstairs in the residence, and the victim's purse was found on the kitchen table, the complaint said. An orange sweatshirt was also found in the residence, according to the complaint.

The extent of the victim's injuries were not available today.

Romero served nine years in prison during the 1990s after being convicted of second-degree murder, said Tia Bland, public information officer for the New Mexico Department of Corrections. She declined to provide details about that case.

According to archives from the Taos Daily newspaper, Romero was arrested July 7, 1991, on a charge of killing Seigfreid Dirnberger, 40, of Louisiana. Police originally believed Dirnberger's death was a suicide, but charged Romero after receiving a tip implicating Romero in the death and learning that the victim had been carrying $15,000 in cash, the Taos Daily said.

After being released from prison in 2000, Romero was arrested on felony charges of battery on a police officer and disarming a police officer. He served two years in prison on those charges, Bland said. New Mexico law enforcement believes he was involved with a prison gang, she said.

He was on probation in Taos County, N.M., when he absconded from supervision and came to Havre, she added. The New Mexico DOC has placed a hold on Romero and will extradite him to face charges of violating his probation, Bland said.


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