Since this crime occurred within 100 miles of where I live I'm surprised that I didn't hear about it when the first charges were filed.
I suspect the upward change came because there is evidence to support the belief that Sontoya took deliberate action which made the difference between Romo living or dying.
A man accused in the brutal rape and death of an Inver Grove Heights mother of four now faces a more serious charge of first-degree murder. A Ramsey County grand jury indicted 31-year-old Michael Carrasco Sontoya on Wednesday. The indictment alleges Sontoya raped 31-year-old Gabriela Patricia Romo in September, which caused her to her bleed to death in St. Paul.
The motive for an acquaintance rapist to allow a rape victim to bleed to death is to eliminate the possibility of testimony from the victim. He can claim that a formerly platonic relationship become romantic and she was into rough sex. This claim of rough sex is a common excuse used when the physical evidence is undeniable.
The common defense strategy seems to be that if any woman likes rough sex then we must view all women as having willingly consented the rough or even brutal actions because to do otherwise would be to toss out reasonable doubt. If that logic is valid then everyone who is suffocated must now be treated as if they wanted to have someone help them commit suicide. There is an assisted suicide group called Final Exit currently being prosecuted which would provide the so-called reasonable doubt using this model.
But most people see the danger of using this model when it comes to suffocation. They don't want someone to be able to get away with suffocating them just because someone else had agreed to let themselves be suffocated.
For this claim of consent to be validly accepted there needs to be actual evidence to back it up. It isn't enough that the accused has a history of participating in assisted suicides. Unfortunately, when it comes to sex crimes too many people dismiss this common sense logic because they claim this reverses the burden of proof. It does not.
When Sontaya contacted the police he reported finding Romo unconscious when he awoke in the morning. Yet there were clear signs of evidence tampering and crime scene cleanup because of where blood was and was not found.
The City Pages blog in Oct. of last year, before the charges were upgraded to first degree murder, does this case an injustice by using the headline: Man charged with murder after night of sex goes terribly wrong. This takes the defendant's story and treats it as proven fact.
This is a rush to judgment and a dead woman has been given equal responsibility based solely on the word of a man who has a clear motive to lie. That's a dangerous message to send. They provide a "play-by-play" and the only verifiable detail in it related to Romo's willing actions is that the Sontaya and Romo left a bar together.
Romo may not be alive to contradict Sontoya's story but the physical evidence contradicts key pieces of Sontoya's story which casts doubt on the entire narrative about what Romo agreed to. This contradictory physical evidence is included in the City Pages article so there can be no claim of ignorance. The assessment contained in the headline is clearly unreliable and should not have been used. Ironically, the article criticizes a Fox TV story for not being decent.
The police are rightfully viewing what happened before Romo bled to dead as a sexual assault. Once the case involves a sexual assault, calling what caused Romo's injuries "sex" is inaccurate. At most it is an allegation of sex just as the prosecution is alleging sexual assault.
This inaccuracy helps people -- who genuinely oppose all rapes -- wrongfully dismiss physical evidence. In too many trials the excuses and rationalizations of offenders get labeled as "reasonable doubt" when they are no such thing.
Just because someone can rationalize committing a crime of violence which involves sex doesn't mean that as a society that we should join in that rationalization. He didn't need to be thinking about harming her to be guilty of first-degree murder. If he let her bleed dry as he cleaned up the crime scene before making any calls, he's guilty even if the only person he thought about was himself.
To view it differently is to contribute to more crimes such as this one.
Any slander which attempts to nullify the reality that Romo was the victim of a serious crime impacts her 4 children and the rest of her family. They deserve better after suffering this inexcusable loss.