Same Name, Wrong Guy: Francisco Romero Mistakenly Jailed for Murder in Texas

Francisco Daniel Romero released from Texas jail after 9 days behind bars.

March 11, 2011 — -- A Texas man is enjoying his freedom after enduring a case of mistaken identity that landed him in jail for more than a week accused of murder.

On March 1, an Arlington, Texas, police officer stopped a car for the innocuous offence of an expired inspection sticker. Behind the wheel was Francisco Daniel Romero -- born Oct. 4, 1969.

When the officer ran a standard background check, a decade-old murder warrant surfaced.

Only it was for a completely different man.

More than 11 years ago, the Dallas Police Department issued a warrant for the arrest of murder suspect Francisco Javier Ortiz Romero -- also born Oct. 4, 1969.

Even though the arresting officer in Arlington noted the differing middle names in his report, Francisco Daniel Romero was locked up for nine days for the other man's alleged crime.

"He just went to drop off the girls at school and he never come home," his wife, Sandra, tearfully told ABC News affiliate WFAA-TV. "He called me around 10:30 in the morning telling me he has been arrested and he was being accused of murder."

"There was obviously a breakdown somewhere," Arlington Police Department spokeswoman Tiara Richard said.

Arlington Police asked their Dallas counterparts for additional information, such as fingerprints and photographs for the wanted man, but were told there was not any evidence to pass along, Richard said.

So the Arlington Police falsely confirmed the warrant and turned over Francisco Daniel Romero to the Dallas County Jail, despite Romero's continued claim that he wasn't the wanted man.

Romero's attorney, Ramon Rincon, said English is not his client's first language and "at no point did they speak to him in Spanish."

Francisco Daniel Romero moved from Mexico to the United States with his wife in 1995 for his job, Rincon said. He has maintained gainful employment, becoming a lawful permanent resident in 2002.

Romero has "no criminal background, not even a traffic citation" and "lived out the American dream with his wife and daughters," Rincon added.

Romero vs. Romero: Same Name, Birth Date, Wife's Name

Francisco Daniel Romero hadn't even traveled to the Dallas area until 2000, a year after the alleged murder in December 1999.

On that day, Francisco Javier Ortiz Romero followed his wife and her boyfriend to a Dallas club. Adding to the coincidences, this Romero's wife also is named Sandra.

Francisco Javier Ortiz Romero is accused of shooting his wife's boyfriend in his car from his own vehicle after a verbal confrontation before fleeing the scene.

"It's easy to compare prints if there are prints to compare to," said Ramon Rincon. But there were no fingerprints at the crime scene because the shooting took place from one car to another.

The Arlington Police Department never tried to communicate with the homicide detective assigned to the murder case, Rincon said, claiming he made the initial inquiries about a possible mix-up. When the case file was opened, a mug shot of the wanted Romero clearly showed the incarcerated man was not the right Francisco Romero.

A Dallas homicide detective then approached an eyewitness to the crime, Francisco Javier Ortiz Romero's former wife Sandra. She looked at Francisco Daniel Romero's prison photograph and immediately told investigators that they had the wrong Romero. The man behind bars was not her wanted ex-husband.

Dallas Deputy Police Chief Craig Miller said his department made every effort to resolve the situation as soon as it was notified by Romero's attorney. Miller can't say where the miscommunication occurred, but "doesn't want to throw anybody under the bus" and the Dallas Police Department isn't currently looking into the matter.

Richard, of the Arlington Police Department, said the breakdown stemmed from the information provided by the Dallas Police in their 11-year-old warrant.

As for Francisco Daniel Romero, he told WFAA TV, "I'm fine now" upon his release, before welling up with tears.

The Romero family is currently weighing its legal options, Rincon said, and family members are in talks about what actions they will be taking.