Suspect in deputy's slaying more Utahn than Mexican, family says

Crime » Roberto Roman spent his life in Millard County, working on dairies and supporting his family, brothers say.
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Roberto Miramontes Roman, who is accused of murdering a sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop, is not an immigrant who happened to be in this town, his family says.

Rather, they say, Roman is a local guy who happened to be born in Mexico.

"We were raised here," said his brother, Freddy Roman.

Freddy Roman, 30, said he feels sorry for the family of Millard County sheriff's Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox. But, during an interview at his family's home in Delta, Freddy Roman and his family remained steadfast in support of his older brother.

"I never saw him kill a jackrabbit," said Roberto Roman's mother, Julianna Roman. "I can't believe he would do something like this."

Fox was shot to death Tuesday morning after she pulled over a car believed to have been driven by Roberto Roman. Following information from Fox's brother, Ryan Greathouse -- who said he was buying drugs from Roman minutes before the shooting -- police tracked Roman to Salt Lake County. He eventually was arrested Wednesday morning after officers found him asleep in a Beaver County shed.

Freddy Roman shared his family's story for about an hour and a half Friday. His parents, who speak less English, answered only a few questions. When asked whether she thinks of Roberto Roman, 37, as more of a Mexican or Utahn, Julianna Roman replied: "Utah."

The Roman family is from Nuevo Casas Grandes, next door to the Mormon settlement of Colonia Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. About 30 years ago, Julianna and her husband, Jacinto Roman, brought their five children to the United States.

The Romans already had family working on the industrial dairies in Millard County and decided to join them, Freddy Roman said. The youngest of the children was just a few years old when the family arrived in Millard County, Freddy said he does not know how his family entered the United States. But he said he and his parents are naturalized citizens.

Roberto Roman is the third child. Freddy Roman said he is too young to remember what life as a Utah transplant was like for his older brother, but he remembers what it was like for him.

"It was hard," he said. "Back then, no one spoke Spanish. There weren't many Hispanics in a town like this. It's hard when you go to school."

The family lived in Fillmore most of the time he was growing up. He said the Latino children played basketball, soccer and baseball, but usually did so only with each other and not in organized leagues.

But Freddy Roman said he has good memories of Millard County, and so does his brother. He remembers his brother taking him sledding and snow tubing. Julianna Roman said she does not remember the schools complaining about Roberto Roman.

Roberto Roman began working on dairies by age 16, his brother said.

"Sometimes, when we had a hard time at Christmas, he would make it happen," Freddy Roman said. "He would go out and get some money, borrow some money or get some work. He had a really big heart."

Court records suggest Roberto Roman had another way of making money. At age 20, he was arrested near the junction of Interstate 15 and Interstate 70 with marijuana. He was convicted in state court of a misdemeanor count of attempting to distribute. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years of probation.

Freddy Roman said he is not sure how his brother got involved with drugs, but suspects it is related to some bad friends he picked up.

Those friends have since "pretty much moved away," Freddy Roman said. "Some went to jail."

Sometime after that arrest, Roberto Roman married a woman from Millard County in the Catholic church in Fillmore. The couple went on to have two children.

Then, in August 1996, Roberto Roman was arrested again on drug charges in Millard County. And while that case was still pending, he and a second man were arrested in Millard County again. In that case, court documents say, Roberto Roman was driving a van with cocaine and a 9mm handgun within his reach. The documents also say deputies found about $2,200 in cash in the pockets of his clothing.

In all, Roberto Roman pleaded guilty to two felonies and received a sentence of one to 15 years in prison. He was released from prison in September 1998 so federal authorities could deport him to Mexico.

Freddy Roman said the deportation saddened his family, and many were crying.

Roberto Roman returned to Nuevo Casas Grandes. His wife and children joined him, Freddy Roman said. There, the marriage ended.

"It's pretty hard living here and being sent to a country [where] you weren't ever raised," Freddy Roman said.

Federal court records show Roberto Roman was deported again in 2005, this time from Arizona. Freddy Roman said his brother was caught trying to re-enter the United States.

But not long after, Freddy Roman said, his brother made it back. Freddy Roman said he does not know how his brother entered, but he called to say he was returning and arrived in Millard County a few days later.

Roberto Roman returned to work at a dairy. For a time, he worked construction jobs in St. George, then returned to Millard County when the housing industry collapsed. He and his children were living at his parents' home.

Freddy Roman said his brother was holding jobs, attending Delta's Catholic church on Sunday and staying out of trouble. His brother must not have been worried about being deported again, Freddy Roman said, because he had his own MySpace page.

Before it was removed, that social-networking page had photographs of Roberto Roman holding various pistols and rifles. Freddy Roman said his brother likes guns, which are illegal for him to possess given his felony convictions, but he never saw him threaten or endanger people with them.

Freddy Roman said the television stations that have displayed the photos have made his brother "look like he's this serial killer. He's not like that."

After Tuesday's shooting, sheriff's deputies arrived at the ranch-style home on an unpaved road in the middle of Delta. They were looking for Roberto Roman, his brother said, searched the house and seized some items.

"I was really scared because I didn't know what was happening," Julianna Roman said.

Freddy Roman said he spoke to his brother Thursday at the Millard County jail. Most of the discussion was about family, Freddy Roman said. Of Fox's killing, Roberto Roman said only that he did not do it, his brother said.

"We're pretty much a family [that doesn't] get in trouble," Freddy Roman said.

Another brother, Mike Roman, arrived at the house carrying a plastic bag of groceries. He was hesitant to speak, but echoed support for his accused brother.

"He's just a guy milking cows," Mike Roman said.

The case against Roman

Roberto Roman is charged with capital murder and tampering with evidence. He was arraigned Thursday in Fillmore's 4th District Court. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty if he is convicted. Ruben Chavez Reyes, whom police arrested along with Roman, is being detained on immigration hold.