West Bay

Murdered Cranston baby's mom: 'I want justice for my son'

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) -- Sandra Peña has spent two and a half years grieving the loss of her infant son, Giovanni Dimas Romero, who died in July 2016.

"He was such a smiling baby," Peña said in her first on-camera interview since Giovanni's death. The Cranston baby was known for his bubbly personality, even at three months old. 

He died of abusive head trauma, also known as "shaken baby syndrome," police said. He had been alone at home with his father and two-year-old brother at the time.

Giovanni's father, Elias Romero, was charged with his murder and has been awaiting trial at the ACI since 2016. His case was further delayed on Tuesday after Romero requested a new attorney at a Superior Court hearing in Providence.

His public defender, Sarah Potter, said she would voluntarily withdraw from the case. Prosecutor Shannon Signore did not object, only telling the judge that the family wants justice for the two and a half year old murder.

"He's just playing games," Peña said after the hearing. "It's not fair." She divorced Romero after he was accused of her baby's murder, and even changed the name of her older son, who was previously named Elias Jr.

"He was two at the time and he still brings it up to this day," she said of her older son, who she says witnessed the alleged murder. "I tell him he's going to be safe with me."

Peña and several friends and family members, including Giovanni's grandfather Eddy Peña, sat in court to watch the hearing on Tuesday. It was the first time they'd seen Romero since a court hearing nearly two years ago.

"I want justice for my son," Peña said outside court, holding a blown-up photo of Giovanni at the hospital after he sustained his head injuries.

"It was very heartbreaking, to know that he did that to my baby," Peña said. "And [Giovanni] couldn't even defend himself."

Romero has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. Attorney Bill Dimitri confirmed he was asked on Tuesday to be Romero's new court-appointed lawyer. He said he plans to meet with his new client soon. A status conference on the case is set for Jan. 8.

The attorney general's office would not comment on an ongoing case, but a spokesperson said it would be delayed because of the change in attorney.

"He's wasting more money for the taxpayer," Eddy Peña said. "He's just using the system."

The family has been working to raise awareness for child abuse prevention, holding a walk in Giovanni's memory and working with the Institute for the Study and Practice of Non-Violence. Back in 2016, Cranston Police said Giovanni's death was "preventable."

While they wait for the criminal case to be resolved, Peña explained how she's been staying strong.

"My son," she said. "I know he's looking down on us."

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