July 19, 2017 By Jason Cohen
A former Queens resident faces up to 25 years in prison after being found guilty of manslaughter in the disappearance of his estranged girlfriend who vanished 15 years ago.
Rafael Rodriguez, 47, who now resides in the Dominican Republic, was convicted Monday, even though the body of the victim, Corona-resident Wanda Romero, was never found.
Following a nearly three-week long trial, a jury found Rodriguez guilty of first-degree manslaughter, aggravated criminal contempt, first-degree criminal contempt, tampering with physical evidence and third-degree bail jumping. He is due back in court for sentencing on Aug. 21.
“Justice eluded the family of the victim for nearly 15 years, but this week a jury convicted the estranged boyfriend of the 25-year-old woman of killing her,” District Attorney Richard Brown said. “It is my hope that this verdict will give the family some closure. The defendant – who tried to escape justice by fleeing to his native Dominican Republic – now faces a lengthy term of incarceration.”
Rodriguez was last seen arguing with Romero, 25, around 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 23, 2002, in a Queens restaurant. He allegedly threatened her and said he would “cut her into pieces.”
Romero had an active order of protection against Rodriguez at the time of her disappearance relating to a then-pending assault case.
As her disappearance was being investigated as a missing person’s case, Rodriguez fled to his native Dominican Republic. In 2003, Rodriguez was indicted and in 2015, was extradited from Panama.