Tragic Motel 6 stabbing happened for 'no reason' - Albuquerque Journal

Tragic Motel 6 stabbing happened for ‘no reason’

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

BAILEY: Was stabbed twice in the chest
Four guests, mostly strangers, stood quietly in line in the Motel 6 office the evening of Feb. 10 waiting for a clerk to help them with basic necessities – a new room key, a fresh set of towels, a room for the night.

Then, the scene erupted in bloodshed. And once again, it appears that mental illness played a role.

A 38-year-old man from Los Lunas who was staying at the motel with his girlfriend was killed by a stranger who, without saying a word, suddenly pulled out a knife and stabbed him in the chest. The suspect then cut the arm of a 66-year-old woman who was standing in the office as he fled.

ROMERO: Told police he was being chased
ROMERO: Told police he was being chased
Police later arrested Johnny Romero, 36, whose family told the Journal he suffers from mental illnesses and they have been trying to get treatment for him. Romero’s girlfriend, who was with him at the time of the stabbing, told detectives he was “a real paranoid kind of guy” who “thinks everyone’s after him.”

Police reports released in response to a request under the Inspection of Public Record Act, detail the interviews detectives conducted before determining the stabbing happened “for no reason at all.”

“We have some very violent individuals with mental illnesses in this town,” said Tanner Tixier, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department. “How do you prevent yourself from being stabbed standing in line at Motel 6? I don’t know.”

‘Something snapped’

When Romero was arrested about a mile from the motel, on University NE near Interstate 40, he told officers that “30 or more black guys” had surrounded him and he had to defend himself. He told police he was being chased.

Witnesses and surveillance video from the motel told a different story.

According to the reports, around 5:45 p.m. Quentes Bailey, an African-American, stood at the front of the line, asking for a new key for the room he had checked into a couple days earlier. Romero and his girlfriend stood behind Bailey, waiting for new towels for their room.

The desk clerk later told police “it was like something snapped in his head.” Romero pulled a steak knife from his jacket pocket and stabbed Bailey two times in the chest. It’s unclear from the police reports whether Bailey turned around or whether Romero walked in front of him before the stabbing.

Bailey was taken to University of New Mexico Hospital, where he died the next day. The Office of the Medical Investigator found he had one stab wound in the left front of his chest and one stab wound in the right front of his chest. Detectives had expected him to live and initially charged Romero with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

In a grand jury indictment in late February, Romero was charged with murder. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on March 7.

A court order cited Romero’s history relating to drug or alcohol abuse and criminal activity and determined he should remain in the county jail on a no-bond hold.

‘He didn’t say a word’

JoAnn Greenberg and her husband were driving their VW Vanagon along Route 66 from Arizona to their home in Atlanta when they stopped at the motel for the night.

In a phone interview with the Journal last week, Greenberg said she was standing in the back of the line waiting to check into a room when she saw Romero stab Bailey two or three times in the chest.

“He (Bailey) didn’t say a word to the guy that stabbed him, and the guy that stabbed him didn’t say a word to anybody else,” Greenberg said. “That was what was so surreal about it.”

Greenberg said she backed away and threw her arm over her chest to protect herself. She said Romero cut her as he ran out the door.

“All I remember is seeing the knife as it stabbed the other guy,” she said. “I don’t even remember seeing him stab me. I just all of a sudden felt pain, looked down and was bleeding.”

Greenberg said Bailey slumped over and appeared to lose consciousness. Someone called 911, and an ambulance took him away.

Greenberg was also taken to a hospital, where doctors treated her cut, which she said was about an inch and a half long.

The next day, she met with homicide detectives and learned that Bailey had died.

Then, she and her husband packed their van and continued on their way home. She said the cut on her arm has healed but a little scar remains.

Help was sought

Bailey and his girlfriend had checked into the motel for a seven-day stay, according to the police report.

According to an obituary, he grew up in Alabama and moved to Albuquerque in 1990 with his family and attended the University of New Mexico in Valencia County.

Bailey “has enjoyed spending time with family and friends making jokes, laughing just enjoying life,” the obituary said. “Never ever missed pop’s and mom’s cooking especially the ribs, blueberry pie and banana pudding to name a few! Quentes loved being a free spirited person living his life to the fullest!”

Bailey’s girlfriend, Kyla Doporto, told detectives he had gone to his parents’ house in Los Lunas the morning before he was stabbed to work on the brakes of his truck. She said he didn’t have any problems with anyone, and she didn’t recognize Romero.

In a rambling interview from jail, Romero explained the stabbing by telling detectives “the whole thing is a hoax” and “there were a lot of people involved in it.”

Romero said Bailey had been following him earlier in the day and the whole thing was a setup, according to the police report.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Romero’s sister, Roxanne Barbee, said her brother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder in jail and she believes he has symptoms consistent with paranoid schizophrenia.

Romero has a history of burglary, robbery and drug possession, and Barbee said she has been trying to get him help since he was released from jail last August.

“We were trying to find him the right psychiatrist to diagnose him exactly and put him on the right psych meds,” she said.

Barbee said Romero had been trying to stay out of trouble and never missed his weekly drug tests and treatment at the District Court in Santa Fe. But she said he had been acting increasingly paranoid recently and would say he was being followed and a network of people was out to get him.

Romero is one of many people with mental health problems with whom police deal “all the time,” Tixier said.

This is the third fatal stabbing in less than a year by a suspect who family members say is mentally ill.

Last May, Joseph Valverde, 21, was arrested and charged with murder after allegedly stabbing his sister to death in their Southwest Albuquerque home.

In August, police say James Finch, 24, broke into his parents’ home and attacked them, killing his father and seriously injuring his mother.

Barbee said she is sorry for what happened to Bailey and for his family, but she mourns for her brother as well.

“My brother, Johnny Romero, is not the monster you all think he is,” Barbee said. “I know he’s a good person. My brother is delusional, and he has different personalities. My brother never got the opportunity to go on heavy meds.”

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