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Rubidoux Women, 2 Kids Are Shot; Boyfriend Sought

Girl, 5, is on life support, the family says. The other victims are in serious condition.

November 19, 2005|Susannah Rosenblatt And Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writers

Riverside County sheriff's deputies on Friday were searching for a man suspected of shooting his girlfriend, her two small children, including a 21-month-old boy, and the woman's mother in the family's Rubidoux home.

"He shot my baby in the head!" the woman can be heard in a recording of the frantic 911 call she made at 1:39 a.m. "I can't move my arms; hurry, please hurry."

Her boyfriend, Maximilliano Romero, 27, a gang member who has served three prison terms in the last decade, was considered armed and dangerous.

All four victims were in serious condition at Loma Linda University Medical Center, sheriff's spokesman Dennis Gutierrez said. Hospital officials declined to comment, citing patient privacy.

Gutierrez said the department was not releasing the names of the victims because of the investigation. But a neighbor and a relative identified the victims as Manuela Sepulveda, 24, her two children, Megan Fajardo, 5, and Andrew Albidrez, 21 months, and Sepulveda's mother, Wanda Darkes.

Megan was on life support, a relative said. She was shot in the head.

Relatives and neighbors gathered Friday outside Sepulveda's home in this blue-collar community near Riverside.

Witnesses said they heard gunfire in the middle of the night and then saw the aftermath.

Neighbor John Casioce, who rushed into Sepulveda's living room shortly after the shooting, said he saw her curled up on the floor, holding her wounds to the chest, arm and side.

"She was saying, 'My babies! My babies! They were shot!' " Casioce said. Andrew had suffered at least one gunshot wound to the arm, he said.

Another neighbor, MaryAnne Ramirez, said Megan was bleeding "at her temple ... she was very, very pale."

Gutierrez, the sheriff's spokesman, said the two women were shot multiple times.

Romero, who had stayed frequently at Sepulveda's home in the 5200 block of Odell Street, was unstable when he was drunk, neighbors said.

"When he's not drinking, he's a cool guy," said Casioce. "When he's drinking ... "

"He takes on a whole new personality," Ramirez said, completing Casioce's sentence.

Romero fled in a blue Chevrolet Astro van that was later found in Riverside, authorities said. He is described as 5 feet 8 inches tall, 140 pounds with brown hair, brown eyes and tattoos.

Romero has been in and out of prison since 1997, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

He was sentenced to two years in a California Youth Authority facility after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, a gun. In 1998, he was sentenced to four years in prison on weapons and gang charges.

Most recently Romero served most of a five-year sentence on drug charges. He was released Sept. 11.

It wasn't clear Friday how Romero and Sepulveda, whom neighbors described as "a fabulous mom," met. The relatives gathered at her home declined to talk about their relationship, focusing instead on the tragedy.

"It was terrible," said Margaret Berez, Sepulveda's 72-year-old aunt. "You shouldn't do that to the children."

*

Times staff writer Ashley Powers contributed to this report.

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