WOODSTOCK – Michael W. Romano knew details only the killer would know, a juror said after the jury handed down a guilty verdict Thursday morning.
Romano, 54, was found guilty on all four counts of first-degree murder in the 2006 shooting deaths of his father, Nick Romano Sr., 71, and stepmother, Gloria Romano, 65, at their home between Crystal Lake and Cary.
Prosecutors have said the former Algonquin man killed his parents to gain an inheritance he needed to pay off $135,000 in debts, while the defense argued no forensic evidence linked Romano to the crime and the money and valuables in the house were left untouched.
The jury of seven men and five women were not unanimous when they went into deliberations Wednesday afternoon, juror Stephen O'Connor of Huntley said after the verdict. About three or four people were on the fence.
They spent about two hours deliberating Wednesday before deciding to sleep on it and come back Thursday to finish up their discussions, O’Connor said.
The jury spent a little more than three hours total deliberating.
“They took it very seriously,” O’Connor said. “They wanted to be absolutely convinced. They were looking for a smoking gun.”
The smoking gun for O’Connor – since the gun used in the murders was never found – was the combination of the details of the crime Michael Romano knew, the lies he told, the motive laid out by the prosecution that Romano was in serious financial difficulties, and the lack of evidence proving another person was in the home.
The Camel cigarette butt found near Gloria Romano’s body did have the DNA of an unknown man on it, a witness testified early this week. Tests showed the DNA did not belong to any of the Romanos.
But, O’Connor said, there was no burn mark and no ash at the scene, leading him to conclude the cigarette butt was planted.
“Michael basically incriminated himself when he talked to the detectives,” O’Connor said, referencing the two videos of interviews police had with Romano. “That was very damning. One of the things was that he confessed he said the very next day that his parents were shot, his father was shot twice in the back of the head. Only the killer would know that.”
Michael Romano’s sentencing hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 19.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The McHenry County Sheriff's Department released a statement Friday from Nicholas Romano, son of the late Nicholas V. Romano.
"Yesterday was a bittersweet day for me and my family. The conviction of my best friend and father, Nick, and my step mother Gloria’s killer has been a long time coming. For almost nine years we have been seeking the truth and looking for answers. On October 1st, 2015 we confirmed what we’ve known for years. We can now move forward and not have to look over our shoulder to see if he was coming to get us.
"I want to thank the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and the McHenry County States Attorney’s Office. They never gave up on this investigation and we will never forget their dedication to this investigation and prosecution. Thank you for allowing us to grieve and move forward with our healing. "