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Man gets life in 1991 cold case murders

VICTORVILLE • A 46-year-old Riverside man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus another 25 years, after he was convicted of killing two business associates in 1991.

Judge Jules Fleuret sentenced Octavio “Tavo” Romero on Monday in Victorville Superior Court to life without the possibility of parole for the murder of Spencer Watts. Fleuret also sentenced Romero to 25 years to life with the possibility of parole in the slaying of Keith Sparrow.

Romero was convicted of the first-degree murder of both men on Nov. 1 following a month-long trial in the 21-year-old case.

Watts’ body was found buried in a desert field in Lucerne Valley on Sept. 2, 1991. He died of two gunshot wounds and an arrow to his head. Investigators found Watts’ blood spatter and bullet and arrow holes at Romero’s house.

Romero and Watts worked for Wayne Pedersen, who used to run a business in Hesperia and is in federal prison now for extortion and criminal threat charges.

Romero and Watts were sharing a house in Spring Valley Lake but didn’t get along, as they competed to become Pedersen’s right-hand man, prosecutors said. Pedersen testified he got a call from Romero and helped wrap Watts’ body in a shower curtain before Romero disposed of the body.

Sparrow was reported missing a few days before Watts was killed.

Prosecutors said Romero and Wayne asked Sparrow to come to Spring Valley Lake with an intent to rob him. Sparrow, who was involved in narcotics manufacturing, had at least $25,000 with him.

Sparrow was last seen with Romero, and the defendant paid $9,500 for his car that week, according to the prosecution.

The defendant testified during the trial and denied any involvement in the alleged murders, claiming Pedersen was responsible for the killings.

Fleuret denied motions Monday by the defense attorney to delay the sentencing or for a new trial. The judge also shot down an oral request by Romero to represent himself.

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