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Cold-case slayings end in arrest 20 years later

187 suspect Octivio Romero (2011 photo)San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies this week arrested a suspect in the 1991 cold-case killings of one man who was found buried in a desert grave and another whose body was never found.

Octavio Romero, 46, of Riverside was arrested last week, officials said in a news release.

In September 1991, Romero’s roommate Spencer Watts, 26, of Victorville, was found buried in a shallow grave in a rural desert area of Lucerne Valley in San Bernardino County. He had been shot multiple times.

Just days before Watts was killed, Romero arrived at the home of acquaintance Keith Sparrow. Sparrow, 19, and Romero drove away together and Sparrow was never seen again, sheriff’s officials said. They believe he was murdered and that his body may be buried near Adelanto.

Both cases went cold for more than 20 years as detectives continued to investigate. A key breakthrough came in 2011 when DNA from blood spatters tested by the Sheriff’s Crime Lab tied Romero to Watts' death.

Romero was arrested Thursday at his home in Riverside and is being held at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

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-- Paloma Esquivel

Photo: Octavio Romero, of Riverside, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of two 1991 slayings. Credit: San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department

 
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