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Rio Rancho police ID girl, 6, found dead in home

Capt. Ron Vigil of the Rio Rancho Police Department briefs the media on the death of 6-year-old Ariana Romeo. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Rio Rancho police have identified a girl who was killed in the home she and her mother were staying in over the weekend as 6-year-old Ariana Romeo.

No arrests have been made in the case, but Capt. Ron Vigil, a spokesman for the Rio Rancho Police Department, said detectives have executed search warrants and interviewed multiple people who were in the home. They don’t believe anyone else is in danger.

“We felt it was important to give a name to the victim, this little 6-year-old girl, Ariana Romeo, who I’m sure had childhood friends in classes,” Vigil said, pointing out that she would have started school today. “We tried to afford the family the privacy and notification that is appropriate, however we also understand that we want to include the community in this information because they are grieving as well.”

The investigation began Saturday morning when police and paramedics were called to the ranch-style brick house in a quiet neighborhood in the 200 block of Moonstone, near N.M. 528 and Northern. There, they found the girl was dead.

Vigil said the condition in which Ariana was found made it clear her death was a homicide, but he would not say how she died. He said they are waiting for the results of an autopsy, which was performed Sunday.

“Any time there’s the loss of a life, especially a child, it’s hard to understand and we’re in the process of a very thorough investigation,” Vigil said. “I want to assure the community we’ve allocated additional resources.”

Vigil said that although detectives believe they have interviewed everyone who was there when the girl was killed, they want to make sure they have enough probable cause and enough evidence to prosecute the case before they make any arrests. He said some people have been cooperating more than others. He said Ariana’s mother – whom he would not identify – has not been ruled out as a suspect.

The FBI assisted with executing the search warrant and processing the home due to the large amount of evidence that needed to be collected. However, Vigil said officials don’t expect the case to be prosecuted federally.

He said they know Ariana and her mother had been living at the home, but they don’t know for how long.

Other, older children had also been living there, but Vigil would not say how many there were, how old they are or how they are related to Ariana.

“We’re working with (New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department) to ensure their well-being,” Vigil said. “Because of the living conditions, we haven’t worked through the relationship of every individual in the home.”

He said detectives are considering the home’s previous history with police and “perhaps from CYFD.”

Henry Varela, a CYFD spokesman, said the department does not have any history with the girl and her mother specifically, but is also now looking into the history of the home.

Varela said none of the children is in CYFD custody, but the department does have its own separate investigation into the case.

A couple who answered the door at the home on Monday said they could not comment due to the ongoing investigation.

Vigil said Ariana’s mother has been interviewed, and her father, who lives out of state, has been notified of her death.

He said police have also been working with the Rio Rancho Public Schools.

District officials did not return calls asking which school Ariana attended.

“We know this little girl had friends in school and in class, and as recently as Friday had attended a school event,” Vigil said.