Chandler police arrested a 22-year-old gang member Tuesday and are trying to tie him to a 2006 murder of a 19-year-old mother.
Rodrigo Romero was booked on suspicion of aggravated assault and street gang offenses in a confrontation that police say he was involved in shortly before a drive-by shooting that left Lindsay Key, an aspiring teacher, dead on Dec. 3, 2006.
Detective David Ramer, Chandler police spokesman, said investigators were only recently able to track down a witness who disappeared shortly after the incidents.
"The case had pretty much gone cold," Ramer said.
Ramer said investigators believe Romero killed Key, but they don't have enough evidence to charge him with her murder. They also believe witnesses fear him and they might come forward now that he is jailed.
Ramer said Key was at a party at a home in the 200 block of East Erie Street outside the front entrance with about 50 other partygoers when she was gunned down.
Ramer said Key was not affiliated with any gangs.
According to a biography of Key on the Project Angel Mom Web site, a group raising a college fund for Key's daughter, Key was a part-time waitress at a Mexican food restaurant and she was studying child development at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Key's father, Gregory Key, is a sergeant with the West Palm Beach Police Department.
Ramer said Romero had a dispute at a house about a quarter-mile away from the party.
Romero pulled out a handgun and threatened members of a rival street gang, Ramer said.
Romero then left, and the men he threatened headed for the party on Erie Street, Ramer said.
According to a 2006 search warrant affidavit, Romero told a witness he was going to shoot up the party.
About an hour later, a red Jeep Cherokee cruised by the party and passengers opened fire on the group outside the house.
Key sat in a chair on the porch wearing a black hooded jacket, jeans and black suede boots.
A bullet struck her in the left cheek and exited her neck.
Five others were wounded.
When the shooting stopped, Key was found slumped in her chair.
Police detained Romero that night and took samples of his DNA and prints, according to the affidavit.
Ramer said another arrest will be coming soon and investigators know there were at least two others involved in the drive-by shooting.
Romero has a history with drive-by shootings, having been convicted in one as a teenager and being acquitted in another.
In April 2006, Romero was discharged 13 months early from a four-year term of probation for a July 2003 drive-by shooting.
Romero, whose brother is a federal probation officer, was 16 and admitted to being at the wheel of a car when a friend fired a shot at a home.
At the time of his arrest, police were investigating him in connection with a 2002 homicide.
He pleaded guilty in the drive-by shooting and agreed to testify against his friend.
Police arrested Romero on Dec. 9, 2007, after someone in a car who closely matched Romero's description opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle on a house with 10 people inside, including an infant.
He refused to pull over when police tried to stop him.
A grand jury indicted him on 12 felony counts in connection with the shooting.
A jury convicted him in June on one charge, fleeing a police officer, and acquitted him on the remaining counts.
A judge sentenced him to 2½ years in prison, giving him credit for almost two years he served in pretrial custody. He was released on Sept. 3.