Man charged in 2021 hit-and-run death in Española

Mar. 19—Española police on Monday charged a man in a 2021 homicide case after reviving an investigation into a hit-and-run crash that killed a construction worker.

Daniel Patricio Romero, 42, of Cordova faces charges of homicide by vehicle, knowingly leaving the scene of an accident and tampering with evidence, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in Rio Arriba County Magistrate Court.

Romero is accused of running over Mario Armando Rascon-Estrada in a pickup in December 2021. Rascon-Estrada was standing on El Llano Road in Española wearing an orange safety vest when he was struck by a vehicle and dragged into a fence, according to an affidavit filed for an arrest warrant against Romero.

The investigation into Rascon-Estrada's killing sat untouched from April 2022 to July 2023, until a detective was assigned to follow up on the case, the investigator wrote in the affidavit.

Police had seized a red pickup that was abandoned several blocks from the site of the crash, the affidavit states. Several witnesses told police they had seen the truck driving away from the crash.

A crash reconstruction report compiled from information stored in the pickup indicated it was traveling 53 mph — in a 35 mph zone — when it struck Rascon-Estrada, the affidavit states.

The pickup had been stolen from a couple who lived at the nearby Vista del Rio Apartments, the investigator wrote.

Analysis of fingerprints found inside the truck showed a match with a woman who then led investigators to Romero, according to the affidavit. DNA samples taken from Romero while he was in custody at Rio Arriba County jail in December matched three samples of human DNA found in the pickup, the investigator wrote.

The Española detective who was assigned to follow up on the case in 2023 wrote in the affidavit he wished to "provide some closure to the family of the decedent" by closing the case.