On the morning of Feb. 23, the Mancos School District went into lockout mode after 43-year-old Romero-Keller, who was finishing her first week as a substitute administrative assistant, reported that someone had called the district office and said, “We are going to kill you all.” An investigation by the Mancos Marshal’s Office showed Romero-Keller was the one who called the office from her cell phone just before she reported the threat.
On Thursday, she pleaded guilty to the charge of interfering with staff and students at an educational facility, a Class 1 misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
During her court appearance, she did not speak much except to her attorney, Rae Randolph. When District Chief Judge Doug Walker asked her to make a plea in the case, she responded in a clear voice.
“I am pleading guilty due to the fact that I committed the offense,” she said.
Romero-Keller also was cited for false reporting to authorities, but that charge was dismissed as part of the plea deal.
According to a report by Mancos Marshal Jason Spruell, Romero-Keller went to his office on Monday, Feb. 26, and confessed to making the threat against the schools. She reportedly claimed she feared for her safety after a similar threat was rumored to have been made against the RE-1 School District in Cortez, and wanted to “get all the students and staff out of the school before there was an actual threat to the school.”
Mancos Superintendent Brian Hanson said she was fired the same day.
Walker tentatively accepted Romero-Keller’s plea, but added that there will be a presentence investigation to determine whether there are any factors in her case that could lead to a harsher or more lenient sentence.
Romero-Keller’s sentencing hearing was scheduled for May 3 at 10 a.m. District Attorney Will Furse said he will recommend she be sentenced to probation, which at minimum will include a mental health evaluation and the requirement to follow treatment recommendations, but could also include jail time. He also recommended she be held responsible for court costs and fees, as well as any restitution requested by the victims of the crime.
Until the hearing, Romero-Keller will need to regularly report to the probation department.