A former Queens resident who evaded justice by residing in the Dominican Republic for more than a decade was sentenced to 24 years in prison yesterday after being found guilty of manslaughter stemming from the disappearance of his estranged girlfriend, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.
Rafael Rodriguez, 47, was found guilty in July for the death of his estranged girlfriend, Wanda Romero, 25, from Corona, who vanished 15 years ago.
Romero was last seen alive arguing with Rodriguez at a Queens restaurant, according to the District Attorney. The pair were seen arguing at around 2:30 am, November 23, 2002, when a witness overheard Rodriguez say that he would “cut her to pieces.”
Romero had an active order of protection against Rodriguez relating to an assault case that was pending at the time. Before the police began to investigate Romero’s disappearance, Rodriguez fled to his native country, the Dominican Republic. Romero’s body was never found.
Rodriguez was indicted in 2003 and extradited from Panama in 2015.
District Attorney Richard A. Brown said that he hoped the sentence would bring relief to the victim’s family, especially Romero’s young daughter.
“It is my hope that this resolution provides the victim’s daughter— who will celebrate her birthday tomorrow again without her mother— and her other family members some closure and peace,” said Brown.