Pinoy Gets 50 Years for Killing Girlfriend’s Daughter
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HUDSON COUNTY, New Jersey – Filipino American Romulo Gregorio, 41, was sentenced on April 30, 2012 to 50 years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend's daughter, Christine Mariano, 20, and torching her body at her residence on Stevens Avenue in Jersey City in 2009.
During the sentencing, an emotional Claire Mariano, a Filipino nurse and mother of the victim, told Gregorio: "You have no soul, you have a black conscience. But I will still pray for you." Then she added in Tagalog: "You will still understand the evil you have done to my child."
On Feb. 2, 2009, Gregorio strangled Christina before placing her body on her mother's bed beside a Bible and dousing the body and bed with acetone before igniting them, prosecutors said.
Gregorio was blaming Christine for the end of his relationship with her mother. In the course of their argument, he strangled her. At the time of the killing Claire was still at work as a nurse in a local hospital. When she returned home, her house was on fire and Gregorio was even trying to console her.
Gregorio, who maintains his innocence, chose not to speak at the sentencing before Hudson County Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale.
In February, he was convicted of murder, aggravated arson and other charges. He will be not be eligible for parole until he is 83, in 2054.
Christine's body was burned beyond recognition when found by firefighters. In the street outside the home, Claire Mariano screamed and pulled at her hair after the body was found. Gregorio was at the mother's side comforting her.
"How dare you put your arm around me after murdering her, the same hands you used to kill my daughter," the mother said in court.
Gregorio was a family friend who began dating Claire some time after her husband died in 2007. Eventually, she gave him an ultimatum: cut back on his drinking, get a job, and go to church. Weeks before the murder, their relationship fell apart.
During those weeks, Gregorio sent Claire hundreds of threatening text messages. Among them were "I hope one of us die you animal," "I will only rest when one of us is dead," and "I want you to feel what you did to my life."
Defense Attorney Douglas Schneider asked the judge to take into consideration that Gregorio had suffered brain damage as a result of being hit by a bus.
He also said Gregorio's father had been brutally murdered and argued the events "affected his sense of feeling and also his ability to fully understand what was going on around him."
The victim's sister, Catherine Mariano, also spoke at the sentencing.
"My family was forced to say good-bye to Christina in a tiny box of ashes," she said. "No one could describe the pain and anger we felt at that moment."