Missing Pregnant Woman Found Dead; Boyfriend Accused Of Murder

Phenia Martinez (Credit: Phenia's family)

UPDATE 1/16: Murder suspect Joseph Romero, 56, turned himself in Thursday night after days on the run.

Romero's girlfriend Phenia Martinez was found dead in their shared apartment Monday, one week after she went missing. The coroner said she'd been stabbed several times, and had been dead at least a few times when her body was found.

Martinez, 25, was 8 months pregnant at the time of her death.

Romero faces charges of second-degree murder.
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PREVIOUS 1/14: A mother of two--soon to be three--went missing Jan. 5.

A week later, 8-months-pregnant Phenia Martinez was found dead inside the home she shared with her boyfriend Joseph Romero. Romero, 56, was nowhere to be found.

Wednesday, the Pueblo County coroner released partial autopsy results. The coroner said 25-year-old Martinez was murdered and died from several stab wounds to the torso. He said Martinez was likely dead for several days before police found her body.

Martinez's mother Priscilla Sifuentes questions what took Pueblo police so long to go into the apartment the couple shared.

"How long would it have taken? How long would it have taken for them to just go...into the apartment?

"She never went and picked up the kids on Monday evening [Jan. 5] after school...I was just concerned and I just thought, 'Maybe she had to get away for the day.'"

But Martinez never got in touch with her family on Jan. 5, and then on Jan. 6 she again was nowhere to be found. Worried, Sifuentes said she called police on Wednesday and asked them to do a welfare check. But she says officers never came.

Pueblo police released a missing person notice to the public on Friday, calling for assistance in the case. They executed a search warrant at Martinez's home on West 13th Street Monday, one week after she was last seen. It was during that search in the apartment that the young mother's body was discovered.

"Maybe if they [authorities] would have listened to us from the get-go, who knows, we may have found her alive," Sifuentes said.

According to Sgt. Gonzales with the Pueblo Police Department, officers' response was hindered by protocol they had to follow before they could finally execute the search warrant Monday. Gonzales said that officers did go to Martinez's apartment on Jan. 7 after they got the request for a welfare check, but when officers knocked, no one answered.

Gonzales said that because entering a home or apartment is a privacy issue, officers at that point had to either get permission from the occupants--neither who were anywhere to be found--or build a case to present to a judge to get a search warrant signed. On Jan. 7, he said it was unclear if there was cause for concern or if Martinez had left on her own.

From the 7th until Monday, when the warrant was signed, Gonzales said officers started asking neighbors if they saw or heard anything suspicious, and gathered evidence to show a judge.

Sifuentes had strong words for her daughter's neighbors, who she accused of standing by and doing nothing despite hearing yelling coming from the apartment on the morning of Jan. 5.

"The neighbors heard it, the neighbors heard her yelling, heard her screaming, but they're like, 'Oh well we didn't want to get involved.' But now look at the end result. The neighbors said that they heard her on Monday morning, that they heard yells and screams and that they were fighting, but yet they never said nothing because they didn't want to get involved."

Compounding the pain of her daughter's death even more, Sifuentes said the baby Martinez was carrying did not survive. Romero is currently the only suspect in Martinez's death; Sifuentes said that if true, she doesn't know why Romero would kill Martinez and his own unborn son. She told 11 News she met Romero once, and at the time didn't think her daughter was in any trouble.

"I met him [Romero] this summer, and I had no idea, I think he did what he did to her behind closed doors. He basically tried to appear to be a good person to your face, but all and all he turned out to be a bad person."

An arrest warrant for second-degree murder has been issued for Romero. Police say he should be considered armed and dangerous. Romero is a felon with a prior rap sheet including crimes such as burglary and assault. Much of his family lives in southern Colorado, leading Martinez's family to believe he's likely sticking around the region.

Martinez's family has started a memorial fund for her. To donate, you can go to any Wells Fargo bank. Just tell them you would like to donate to the Memoriam for Phenia Martinez. The account number is 8602570569.