A McHenry County judge Wednesday denied the dismissal of a grand jury indictment against a former Algonquin man set to stand trial later this month for the 2006 murders of his parents.
Angelo Mourelatos, public defender representing Michael Romano, 56, argued that a murder indictment against his client should be dismissed because prosecutors provided a grand jury with “false or misleading” evidence on Jan. 8, 2014 which led to an indictment charging Romano for the murders of his father Nick Romano, 71, and his stepmother Gloria, 65.
In her ruling Wednesday, Judge Sharon Prather explained that the court is “limited in its ability to dismiss an indictment.” She said that the issues the defense raised did not prove the grand jury had been deliberately misled and that she did not find that Romano’s “due process” had been violated.
Romano told police he found his parents shot to death in their home located in the unincorporated Crystal Lake neighborhood of Killarney Acres at about 3 a.m. Nov. 20, 2006, authorities have said.
Romano said that he had gone to check on his parents that morning because he could not reach them by phone.
Romano cooperated with police in the days following the murders but later moved to Las Vegas where in early January 2014 he was arrested, then extradited to McHenry County jail where he has remained on $3 million bond.
Mourelatos argued that Romano was indicted only after the grand jury had been “misled” by false or inaccurate details regarding time of death, Romano’s presence on surveillance videos, and FBI laboratory ballistic results.
In particular, the defense took issue with testimony of McHenry County Sheriff’s Detective Thomas Jonites.
The defense argued that Jonites testified the couple was killed between 10:40 a.m. and noon on Nov. 19, 2006, even though the coroner never determined the time of death.
Assistant State’s Atty. Patrick Kenneally responded that Jonites only gave his “opinion” as to time of death based on evidence, therefore was not deliberately misleading, nor was he stating that his suspected time of death was the determination of the coroner’s.
The defense also took issue with the detective’s testimony that Romano was not on surveillance videotapes from two local businesses at 10:30 a.m. the day his parents were killed. In early interviews with police Romano told police he had been at these two locations during that timeframe, which the state alleges was when the couple was murdered.
Mourelatos said that his client can be seen on the videos from both locations at just before and after 11 a.m. still within the couples’ supposed time of death.
“Det. Jonites’s testimony was designed to disprove the alibi of the defendant and to portray defendant as a liar to the Grand Jury,” Mourelatos wrote in the motion. “Det. Jonites’s testimony to the Grand Jury was misleading.”
Prosecutors denied any allegations they misled the grand jury and say it is the opinion of Jonites that Romano is not on those tapes, and that the state maintains “the accuracy” of Jonites’s opinion.
In her ruling, Prather said what is seen on the tapes is a matter of fact to be determined by the trial jury.
Mourelatos also said Jonites stated that bullets found in an ammunition box in the home of friend who authorities say provided bullets to Romano “matched” bullet shell casings found at the murder scene. When in fact, Mourelatos said, that the FBI lab report- available to the state- concluded the bullets “were consistent with the casings found on scene but there is no reliable method to determine if they match.”
“The prosecution emphasized that these “bullets matched exactly” despite the FBI findings in the prosecutions possession,” he wrote.
Kenneally maintained there was no intention to mislead the grand jury.
“The state appropriately and consistently qualified its statements to the Grand Jury by pointing out that the match was only in regard to “observable features” and not that there were some type of scientific testing that established some type of definitive correspondence.”
Prather said the meaning found in a dictionary of “matched” and “consistent” were similar and therefore did not find this testimony to the grand jury false or misleading.
Mourelatos also argued that prosecutors “mischaracterized” two cigarette butts found at the scene and mislead jurors to believe they were both Romanos. One found next to Gloria Romano’s body had no DNA attached to it and one found outside the home had Michael Romano’s DNA. Mourelatos said there is no way of knowing if they both were the same brand. He said the state was “trying to draw the comparison both were Camel and one contained (Romano’s) DNA.” That, he said “was false and misleading.”
The trial is set to begin Sept. 21.