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Friends dispute suggestions of abuse in slaying

Image: A man arrives at the funeral  of Vincent Romero at the St. John the Baptist church
Funeral services were held Monday at St. John the Baptist church in St. Johns, Ariz., for Vincent Romano, who was killed by his son. Police said a court order prevented them from discussing the case.Dana Felthauser / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Hundreds of mourners packed a funeral Monday for a man allegedly shot to death by his 8-year-old son, while friends and neighbors disputed any suggestion the boy had been abused by his father.

They painted a picture of Vincent Romero as a caring father who seemed to be doing all he could to raise a polite and respectful boy.

"They were always together doing things as a family, fishing, hunting," Carlos Diaz, a cousin of Romero's current wife, said after the funeral Mass at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.

About 600 people filled the rural Arizona church in this town of about 4,000. People who could not get in crowded around an open door or sat on chairs set up outside. Romero, an avid hunter, was in a casket with a camouflage lid.

Romero, a 29-year-old employee of a construction company, was shot with a .22-caliber rifle last Wednesday along with Timothy Romans, a 39-year-old man who rented a room in his house.

Police say the boy planned killings
Police said Romero's son planned and methodically carried out the killings, and confessed. Authorities would not discuss specifics of the confession. The boy has been charged with two counts of murder.

The boy appeared in court on Monday, wearing handcuffs at the hearing in St. Johns and sat restlessly next to his mother. Some people in the audience cried as he entered.

The judge gave defense attorneys until Friday to either find an expert to evaluate the boy's competency or to agree to one suggested by the prosecutors.

Police Chief Roy Melnick said over the weekend that police were looking into whether the boy might have been abused. He would not say who might be under scrutiny. The police department said in a statement Monday that a court had issued an order prohibiting the release of any further information about the case.

Prosecutors said that there was no record of any complaints filed about the boy with Arizona Child Protective Services and that the youngster had no disciplinary record at school.

Romero had full custody of the child. The boy's mother is in Mississippi, according to officials. Police said the boy's stepmother was not home at the time of the shooting.

The boy's attorney complained that police questioned the third-grader without representation from a parent or attorney and did not advise him of his rights.

Relatives and friends say no abuse
Relatives and friends of Romero's in the town 170 miles (273 kilometers) northeast of Phoenix said they saw no signs of abuse by the father.

Carl Hamblin, a neighbor who had once coached the father in Little League, said he often saw Romero and his son at football games or out in the yard, playing baseball.

"He appeared to be doing the right things as a dad," Hamblin said.

Neighbors Flynt and Amber Smith described the father and son as "two peas in a pod."

"They were good people, and I'd have to say good parents, and made sure (the boy) was respectful to people," Amber Smith said.