Tuesday, September 27, 2011

TOP STORY >> Family grieves over murder

Leader staff writer

Family and friends may never know what happened to Alesia Maize because the only suspect in her murder died in a traffic accident only hours after her beaten body was found following a domestic dispute. A relative says he left a note at the scene.

The 46-year-old Maize was found dead in her Links apartment at 3514 E. Kiehl Ave. in Sherwood on Sunday. She would have embraced her first grandchild in a matter of days and was nervous about being a grandmother.

“He (Robert Romes) robbed her of that,” the victim’s cousin, Vicki Gadd-Reed of Ohio, told The Leader.

Romes, 50, of Little Rock was driving Maize’s 1997 Chevrolet Malibu east on I-440 near an overpass over I-40 when he veered to the right off the roadway and struck a guardrail. The car flipped several times, eventually coming to a stop at the center guardrail on I-40.

He was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. A motorist who witnessed the accident stopped in the center lane to protect Romes and called police.

Romes was airlifted to Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock. Sherwood police were unable to speak with him due to his condition.

Sherwood detectives are still investigating the case, said Capt. Grady Russell. The evidence may lead them to another suspect or back to Romes.

Police named Romes as a suspect because they were told the couple had been arguing. Maize’s death is believed to be associated with a domestic dispute.

The department is not releasing the cause of death for her or what was found at the scene.

Gadd-Reed said she heard from another family member that Romes left a note at the scene and Maize was beaten severely.

Gadd-Reed saw her cousin in Ohio last month, when Maize and Romes paid a visit to some of Maize’s relatives. Gadd-Reed spoke to Maize on the phone every Sunday.

She said Maize told her the couple wanted to marry. The cousin joked with Maize about her age, saying Gladd-Reed would be the “flower girl” at a Romes-Maize wedding.

Romes has a child who called Maize “mom,” and he seemed to be “holy, a man of God,” at the time, Gadd-Reed said.

His Facebook profile “about me” section reads, “Bless the Lord. Glad to be in his service!”

Gadd-Reed said Maize met Romes before he went to prison and she waited for him to be released. Maize visited and wrote to him while he was incarcerated. Gadd-Reed said Romes told her cousin, “Once I get out, I will make your life better.”

In 2004, Romes was prosecuted in six criminal cases, according to the Pulaski County Circuit Court Clerk’s office.

He was convicted on two counts of felony forgery, two felony counts of robbery, two felony counts of theft by receiving, a felony count of theft of property, a felony count of breaking and entering and a few related misdemeanor charges. He was sentenced to 25 years for robbery because he had previous convictions.

Romes was released on parole on Feb. 28, according to the Arkansas Department of Correction. It is unclear how Maize met the man she fell in love with.

What the family and friends who loved her can do now is grieve and remember the “church-going” mother, daughter and friend she was. Maize always wore a smile and would have done “anything for anyone,” Gadd-Reed said.

“If you had a problem, she’d had the problem once before and would tell you how to get through it,” she added.

Maize is from Dayton, Ohio. Her father is a Pentecostal preacher and the family traveled a lot. She met hundreds of friends and acquaintances along the way, if her Facebook profile is any indication of the lives she touched. Her friends list totals 1,417.

Queenie Tasha Canady-Byrd, Maize’s best friend, said in a Facebook message to The Leader, “I want people to know she was wonderful. She loved being around her family, and her goal was to keep a decent job, be a good grandmother and one day find the right man.”

Nearly 100 users have posted farewells on a memorial Facebook page titled, “RIP Alesia Maize.” Their goodbyes call her an angel and say her laughter will be missed.

The page was created less than 24 hours after a relative discovered her body. The relative went to check on Maize because she couldn’t be reached by phone.

She was the oldest of two siblings, a brother and a sister. She worked as a receptionist at the state Capitol and liked her job, Gadd-Reed said.

Maize leaves behind her father, 86-year-old grandmother, son, daughter, brother, sister and numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Hers will be the third funeral the family has held in the past few months. They mourned Maize’s 90-year-old grandfather and another relative before her death. Services for Maize will be held on Friday and Saturday.

This is the third homicide reported in the city this year and the second for Sherwood in the past two months. Ironically, Sunday, the day Maize’s body was found, was the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.

Sherwood police are also investigating the August murder of 74-year-old Katherine Cleary, a 5-foot, 90-pound elderly woman whose body was found on Boyd Road after one of two women arrested for using her credit card at Walmart said they left some of her belongings there.