Crisostomo trial visits crime scene


The trial of murder suspect Joseph A. Crisostomo went on an on-site visit yesterday to the former La Fiesta Mall where the body of bartender Emerita Romero was found and the street where she was last seen alive, boarding a car.

Superior Court Associate Judge N. Camacho, who is presiding over the jury trial of the 40-year-old Crisostomo, led the eight jurors and the prosecution and defense teams yesterday afternoon in a visit to the former La Fiesta Mall in San Roque/As Matuis and near St. Michael’s Ambulance along Chichirica Avenue corner Kadena Di Amor St. in Garapan.

Romero reportedly boarded a car along Chichirica Avenue corner Kadena Di Amor St. at about 2:40am on Feb. 5, 2012. Two days later, Feb. 7, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents found her body in a small room at the northernmost part of the abandoned La Fiesta Mall.

A woman also testified yesterday that she met Crisostomo in the early morning hours of Feb. 5, 2012, in a rental car parked in a dark portion of a parking lot of Piano Poker along Middle Road in Garapan. She said Crisostomo “acted weird.”

Piano Poker is within close proximity to where Romero was last seen boarding a car that she reportedly mistook as a taxicab on that same early morning of Feb. 5, 2012.

Also yesterday, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) did not appear before the Superior Court despite a subpoena served on him by the Superior Court clerk of court at the request of defense attorney Janet H. King.

King subpoenaed Sablan to have him attend the trial yesterday at 1:30pm and produce documents related to a “congressional inquiry” into the investigation of Romero’s murder.

Sablan, through U.S. House of Representatives general counsel Kerry W. Kircher, instead wrote yesterday to Judge Camacho to inform him that he filed in federal court a notice of removal of the subpoena and that he will not be appearing before the Superior Court.

Kircher also pointed out that Sablan has already voluntarily gave to both the prosecution and King the documents being sought by the subpoena.

In a statement, Sablan said he would never want to influence the jurors or the outcome of this trial in any way.

“Our community is in the middle of a very sad and serious trial. A young woman lost her life. And a young man has been accused of the crime. Six of our community members have been selected to listen to the facts and come to a verdict,” Sablan said.

Regarding the subpoena, the delegate said that on April 4, 2014, at his request, the general counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives responded to an email from King.

Sablan said the general counsel informed King that he was willing to release communications between the congressional office and the FBI pertaining to the investigation of Romero’s death.

He said it was appropriate that the FBI have time to agree, but the general counsel told King that the FBI had his permission to release the documents to her at her request.

Sablan said yesterday he released those documents to King and Attorney General Joey San Nicolas, and informed the FBI of the release. He said King and the AG can make these documents available to the press, if they choose.

Saying he does not want any mystery, Sablan disclosed that in April 2012 he asked his chief of staff, Bob Schwalback, to check with the FBI on its progress in analyzing evidence related to the Romero investigation.

“There were concerns in our community that this work was going too slowly. The FBI assured Mr. Schwalbach that there was no delay; and he left it at that. There were no further communications until Ms. King’s request two weeks ago,” Sablan said.

In Sablan’s notice of removal filed in the U.S. District Court for the NMI, Kircher said the delegate removes the subpoena from the Superior Court, where it originally was filed, to the federal court.

The subpoena was issued on Wednesday and served on Sablan that same day.

Kircher said removal is appropriate under the statute since Sablan is being subpoenaed in his official capacity to provide testimony and documents related to acts or omissions under color of his federal office.

Kircher also cited, among other things, federal common law that bars the compelled testimony of high-ranking government officials except in extraordinary circumstances.

Kircher said with some exceptions, Rules 8 of the Rules of the House of Representatives which bars members and delegates from testifying, or producing records, about matters relating to the official House’s functions, in response to a judicial subpoena.

Asked for comment about Sablan’s non-appearance and filing of notice of removal, King said she subpoenaed Sablan to testify as a witness based on a “congressional inquiry” that he made with the FBI.

“My job is to defend an innocent man about his influence or the congressional inquiry influence on the investigation,” King said.

King said it is her understanding that this congressional inquiry was issued in April 2012 to hasten the investigation.

“And that’s very probative of the effect that it had on the Romero murder investigation. I just want to get more information about that,” she said.

King said she is going to “defend the innocent man Crisostomo to the very end.”

“If it includes my appearance in federal court, I will be there,” she stressed.

Alice Kintaro testified yesterday that on Feb. 5, 2012, at about 1:30am, she was playing poker at Piano Poker when Albert Deleon Guerrero, along with Crisostomo’s sister, Annie, and Annie’s boyfriend, Cheyenne Sablan, went inside the establishment.

Kintaro said Deleon Guerrero told her that Crisostomo was outside and wanted to talk to her.

Kintaro stated that Crisostomo is her friend, who was introduced to her by her former boyfriend.

She said Crisostomo was inside a rental blue car that was parked in a dark area. Crisostomo reportedly asked to borrow her cellphone so she gave it to him.

In a police report filed by police detective Simon T. Manacop, when interviewed by a police sergeant, Kintaro reportedly disclosed that as she entered the car, Crisostomo asked her if she wanted to smoke methamphetamine or “ice.”

Being uncomfortable with the location, Kintaro suggested to Crisostomo that they proceed to her house in Upper Miha. When they got there, she noticed that Crisostomo was acting “weird” so she asked him instead for some “ice” that she will smoke later.

Crisostomo then asked to borrow her cell phone and that she agreed to lend it to him.

At about 1:20am, Crisostomo dropped her back at Piano Poker. She went home at 1:40am.

In her testimony, Kintaro said that then Crisostomo called her at 6am that day and asked her to pick up Annie, Sablan, and Deleon Guerrero at Piano Poker as he was busy. Kintaro said she did that and dropped home Deleon Guerrero, Annie, and Sablan.

From there on, Kintaro kept calling Crisostomo on her cellphone to return her phone, to no avail. She got her cellphone back on Feb. 6, 2012, from Annie when they met at the Superior Court. Kintaro said she then noticed that the text messages had been deleted.

At the resumption of the trial yesterday afternoon, Judge Camacho expressed the need to visit the crime scenes to give the jurors a better perspective.

Interim chief prosecutor Brian Flaherty and assistant attorney general Margo Brown-Badawy and King agreed.

With escorts provided by court marshals and Department of Correction officers, Camacho led the jurors in touring the crime scene at La Fiesta Mall. The prosecutors also toured the scene with King and Crisostomo.

After La Fiesta, the parties proceeded to the streets in Garapan where Romero was last seen boarding a car. It was raining when the parties arrived.

The parties went back to Superior Court. Shortly after, Camacho excused the jurors and ordered them to return on Monday for the continuation of the trial.

FBI Guam Office electronics technician Brian Babin also took the witness stand yesterday for the government. He testified how they searched the Toyota Corolla with license plate ACG-246, a rental reportedly driven by Crisostomo.

Babin said he and FBI special agent Haejun Park and others searched the car for three hours and a half at DPS Boating Safety Section hangar on Feb. 9, 2012.

Babin disclosed that they obtained 17 pieces of evidence from the car. He explained how the search process was conducted.

Babin said he collected the metal door taken from La Fiesta Mall and helped package of it.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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