Brother identifies body
Guam chief medical examiner Aurelio A. Espinola has conducted an autopsy to determine the cause of death of bartender Emerita “Emie” Relata Romero, whose body was found at the former La Fiesta Mall in San Roque Tuesday afternoon.
Saipan Tribune learned that Espinola completed the autopsy on Romero’s body at the Commonwealth Health Center’s morgue yesterday at midnight. The Department of Public Safety has yet to release the autopsy results to the media.
This developed as Eduardo Relata, 43, identified the body as his missing 37-year-old sister, Romero, at the CHC morgue Tuesday night.
Relata told Saipan Tribune yesterday that he was able to identify the body through a silver anklet on her right ankle and also by her nails and teeth.
Relata chose not to disclose the injuries or other information about the body’s condition so not to jeopardize the ongoing investigation.
“But for sure my sister was killed,” he said.
Relata went to CHC Tuesday night to identify the body at the request of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and police officers.
Relata’s other sister, Estrellita “Lhet” Relata, could not make it to the morgue as she fainted twice late Tuesday afternoon and had to be taken to CHC for treatment after police informed her about finding a dead body at La Fiesta.
In response to Saipan Tribune inquiries, special agent Thomas J. Simon Jr. confirmed that FBI agents were the ones who actually found the body at the derelict mall.
When asked what led the FBI to the site, Simon replied in an email that FBI agents were searching abandoned buildings for evidence when they decided to search the former mall.
“At that time, they located the body of a woman, secured the crime scene, and called in Saipan police,” Simon said.
He stressed that the current investigation is a local police matter, not an FBI investigation. Kidnappings only become federal crimes if there is evidence that the victim was transported interstate, he said.
“However, we will make FBI resources available to the police to assist them in their case,” Simon added.
He refused to answer other questions, saying that further inquiries should be directed to Saipan DPS as it is their investigation.
Family members, friends, and neighbors, held prayers Tuesday night at Romero’s residence at the corners of Chichirica Avenue and Dama Di Noche Street in Garapan. Romero’s brother, sister, and a cousin also live there.
A Mass was set for 6pm Wednesday at Kristo Rai Church. A daily rosary at CHC’s chapel will also begin today, Thursday, at 8pm.
Romero’s brother, Eduardo Relata, said their family is hoping and praying that the killer will immediately be caught. At the same time, they are thankful to authorities for the search and investigation as well as to relatives, friends, and people who joined the search, offered prayers, and provided monetary and in-kind assistance.
On Tuesday night, Romero’s co-workers and friends lighted candles at the doorway of Godfather’s Bar in Garapan where the victim worked for three years. The bar closed early that night.
One of the bar’s owners, Ron Biggers, said they will have fundraisers over the next few days to pool money for Romero’s two children—18 and 8 years old—who are in Bulacan, the Philippines, with their father and Romero’s husband.
“We are working closely with Emie’s [Romero] family right now to expedite sending Emie back home to the Philippines. This is the family’s request,” Biggers said.
Biggers said he and the bar’s co-owner, Scott Dottino, along with the staff are assisting DPS Commissioner Ramon Mafnas and the FBI.
Sources disclosed yesterday that FBI and police officers went to an apartment in the southern part of Saipan on Tuesday morning, talked to the male occupant, checked his body, and inspected his vehicles and other items. It was not clear yet whether the operation was related to the Romero investigation.
Sources said the man regularly hangs out by himself at Godfather’s Bar and looks like a Bangladeshi national with an “American accent.”
Romero was reportedly last seen Sunday around 3am boarding a green or blue tinted sedan in the parking lot of Call-A-Ride Saipan on Chichirica Avenue corner Kadena Di Amor St. in Garapan.
Natalie Ocon, who last saw Romero alive, earlier told Saipan Tribune that she saw her co-worker, Romero, enter the front passenger seat of the car. Ocon said she heard from the car a man “with an American accent” asking Romero, “What’s that?” apparently referring to a bag of bananas she was carrying.
Ocon and Romero at the time had just exchanged bags of bananas along Chichirica Avenue. Before the victim got into the car, Ocon asked her why she has not changed clothes and why she was in a hurry. Ocon said that Romero replied that the one in the car was her Bangladeshi neighbor.
Ocon did not see the man as the car was heavily tinted.
Ocon said the car left in the direction of the Mobil Station on Middle Road.