A decision on parole for a man linked by DNA to a series of rapes in the 1990s will be delayed until at least December.
Rudy Romero was supposed to be released from prison in July, but his parole was rescinded after DNA testing linked the convicted robber to at least five rapes that occurred along the Jordan River Parkway between 1990 and 1993.
At a hearing before the state Board of Pardons and Parole last week, Romero said he lacked information about the new allegations and did not understand the recision hearing proceedings.
The board wants to ensure that Romero, 40, has every available piece of information before it proceeds with a decision, chairman Mike Sibbett said. Another recision hearing for Romero will be held in early December, Sibbett said.
"It's clear that we want to provide him with clear, succinct information so that he has an absolutely clear understanding of what we are basing our decision on," Sibbett said. "That's why we are going to take extra time and give him as much information as we can."
The board's decision could either keep Romero in prison or immediate reinstate a date for parole.
Recision hearings are not uncommon, but Romero's case is unusual because it is the first time a DNA evidence has been a factor. No new charges are pending against Romero because the five-year statute of limitations for rape ran out long ago.
But the board always considers new information when making decisions about granting parole or terminating a sentence, Sibbett said.
"All the recision hearing does is give the board pause to review a decision we've already made to see, number one, if the risk to the public is too great to allow the date to stand, and to evaluate any new, substantial information since we made the judgment that we did."
The Parkway rapes began in 1990 and continued into 1993. In all there were 11 abductions and sexual assaults with 13 combined victims. Working with the state crime lab, Salt Lake City police say they have positively matched a DNA sample taken from Romero this year to DNA samples collected in five of the alleged crimes.
Romero invoked the Fifth Amendment last week when asked by board hearing officer Curtis Garner if he had committed the crimes.
State law does not allow for inmates to appear at board hearings with an attorney — which Romero demanded last week — but Sibbett said Romero is not prevented from consulting an attorney in preparing for the next hearing.
Given the stakes, Sibbett said the board felt it important to take more time. It is important that Romero fully understand the information being used by the board as it makes its decision, he said.
"We just want to be careful and we want to do (this) right," Sibbett said. "It's a significant decision, and we want to be as fair as we can to Mr. Romero."