A 47-year-old man recently convicted in a 14-year-old cold case after he fled to the Dominican Republic more than a decade ago was sentenced on Monday to 24 1⁄3 years in prison, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.
Rafael Rodriguez was convicted in the 2002 death of 25-year-old Corona resident Wanda Romero back in July.
Romero, who had an active order of protection against Rodriguez, her ex-boyfriend, was last seen arguing with him in a Queens restaurant at about 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 23, 2002. He was overheard threatening to “cut her into pieces.”
Her body was never found.
Rodriguez fled to his native Dominican Republic right before police started to investigate her disappearance as a missing person’s case.
“The defendant did all he could to elude justice, but today the Court sentenced him to a very long term of incarceration to punish him for this vicious crime and protect society,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement. “A young woman — the victim’s daughter — was forced to grow up without her mother because of this defendant’s rage and brutality. 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.”
Rodriguez was indicted in the case in 2003, and in 2015 he was extradited from Panama.
Rodriguez was convicted of several offenses, including first-degree manslaughter and tampering with physical evidence. Rodriguez’s sentence includes five years of post-release supervision, according to the district attorney.