Gilbert L. Romero, 51, was arrested by Santa Fe police at the home on Jan. 24 after his DNA matched samples collected from a then-teenage girl who was raped in 1992.
Mario Aguirre, who said his sister was Romero’s girlfriend, said Thursday he has known Romero most of his life, about 30 years, and considered him a “father figure and a role model.”
“He’s always been there for me,” he said.
Aguirre, who said he considers himself Romero’s brother-in-law, also described Romero as a “good guy” and a “hardworking man.” He said that Romero was a truck driver who drove semis and also worked as a car mechanic.
Aguirre indicated that Romero is now out of jail, but online jail records showed him still incarcerated as of Thursday night.
Romero’s bond was reduced from $100,000 cash-only to $50,000 surety earlier this week.
Romero did not return a message left at his house to call the Journal.
A few of Romero’s neighbors on the dead-end street said they only knew him in passing, but two of them said he seemed friendly and would wave to them as they came and went.
Romero is accused in the kidnapping and raping of a 16-year-old girl in October 1992.
At the time, the girl told police she was walking home down Second Street near Berry Avenue late at night – she’d had an argument with a girlfriend and got out of the friend’s car – when a van pulled up next to her and offered her a ride. She agreed and was eventually driven to a park off Navajo Street where the man locked the doors, pulled a gun and proceeded to rape her.
Santa Fe police say that among the evidence collected was a swab that included the DNA of the rapist.
It was stored as evidence in a freezer at the Santa Fe police department until June of last year when it was sent to the New Mexico Department of Public Safety’s forensic laboratory for analysis.
Since the time of the rape, there have been advancements in technology used to analyze DNA and a national database has been set up to match DNA evidence with DNA from perpetrators of other crimes. It’s unclear why Romero’s DNA was in the database, although he did plead guilty to charges of fraud and embezzlement in the mid-1990s.