The estranged boyfriend of a Corona woman who disappeared back in November of 2002 will be spending the next 24 years in prison for her death, prosecutors announced on Aug. 21.
Rafael Rodriguez, 47, who last resided in the Dominican Republic was overheard threatening to kill and dismember Wanda Romero, then 25, during an argument at a Queens restaurant early on the morning of Nov. 23, 2002. Romero was never seen again.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said that Rodriguez got into the dispute with Romero at the restaurant even though she had an active order of protection against him as a result of a then-pending assault case. Just before Romero was reported missing by her family, authorities said, Rodriguez fled the country to the Dominican Republic.
Following an investigation by the 115th Precinct Detective Squad, Rodriguez was indicted in absentia and ultimately arrested in Panama in 2015. He was then extradited back to Queens. Although Romero’s body was never found, Rodriguez was still convicted at trial in July of this year on charges of first-degree manslaughter, aggravated criminal contempt, criminal contempt, tampering with physical evidence and bail jumping.
Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth C. Holder ordered Rodriguez on Aug. 21 to serve 24 1/3 years behind bars, followed by five years’ probation upon release.
“The defendant did all he could to elude justice, but today the court sentenced him to a very long term of incarceration to punish him for this vicious crime and protect society,” Brown said in a statement on Monday. “It is my hope that this resolution provides the victim’s daughter — who will celebrate her birthday tomorrow again without her mother — and her other family members some closure and peace.”