Amber (Martin) Morales-Romero testifies
Jason Ray Dominguez’ ex-girlfriend tells all to jury
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
The sixth witness on Tuesday (Jan. 15) of the Jason Dominguez murder trial was Amber (Martin) Morales-Romero, the former girlfriend of Dominguez. She told the court all that occurred during the night of Oct. 2, 2011, and the early morning hours of Oct. 3, 2011, when Dustin Brown was shot seven times and killed.
The third day had testimonies from 15 witnesses, all called by the prosecution. Dominguez did not cross-examine any, nor did he do any objections. He also had no objections to any of the evidence filed with the court.
Morales-Romero, called as a witness, said she moved to Hutchinson in July of 2011 from Grand Rapids. She worked at an assisted living facility and at the 7-Hi Budget Motel where she also lived. It was at the motel where she met Dominguez and began a relationship with him.
Because of threats from her son’s father, she had purchased at a gun show a .380 Smith and Wesson pistol for protection.
Morales-Romero’s birthday is Oct. 1, and when her mother came for a visit, she gave the gun to Dominguez to keep since, “My mom didn’t like guns,” she said.
On Oct. 2, 2011, Dominguez said Morales-Romero and her three children, Elizabeth 15, Sabrina, 12, and Kole, 8, should come with him for a day on the lake. They left at noon for Spicer.
When the sun was going down, the six left the lake and drove to St. Cloud where they had dinner. After eating, Dominguez and Morales-Romero stopped at TGI Fridays for a drink, then at a gas station.
Morales-Romero said in court it was there that Dominguez asked her to go to Little Falls to meet Brown.
At first, she said Dominguez went to the wrong trailer at the Little Falls Cottages in Lindbergh Avenue North. She and the children watched from the car until Brown asked them all in.
Morales-Romero said the conversation between the two men included words such as, “I love you, man,” but then turned to money. She used the bathroom and got the kids out of there. She said she was there for about five minutes. Dominguez left with her.
They went home to Hutchinson, arriving at about 1:30 a.m., where the kids were put to bed. Morales-Romero said Dominguez then wanted to go for a ride. They stopped for gas and drove north out of town.
In St. Cloud, Dominguez asked Morales-Romero to get out of the car to get beer for him. When she returned, he showed her that he had the gun with him.
“I believe I called him ‘stupid,” she said.
Prosecuting attorney William Klumpp then asked her if this was a calm conversation. She began to cry.
“I thought he was just talking,” she said. “But he kept nudging me and told me to do as he told. He was agitated; I did as I was told.”
From there, the two drove to the Little Falls Cottages.
“He told me to go up to the door. I did and banged on the door,” she said.
Morales-Romero said she wanted to leave and they both got into the car and drove around. Again they stopped near Brown’s trailer. She and Dominguez argued and she again remembers calling him “stupid.”
At that moment, a man came out of his residence and asked them how long they would be there. Dominguez then ran with the gun and she said she drove off. As she was leaving the area, she said she noticed the fire at Brown’s place.
From the Little Falls Cottages, Morales-Romero said she went to the Super America Station in Little Falls, about six blocks south of the Cottages. While there, she heard sirens and also received pages and calls from Dominguez.
“He told me he killed him and that I had better come and get him,” she said in court.
Morales-Romero drove back to the Little Falls Cottages. She got in the passenger side of the car and Dominguez drove.
“He showed me the bullet shells, blood on his clothes and the reloaded gun,” she said. “He also had a watch and a cell phone.”
Morales-Romero told the court the shells went out the window of the car by a corn field and the cell phone and watch went the same way with the clothing.
Dominguez told Morales-Romero that if she was questioned by the incident, she should say the two spent the night in a cemetery.
Morales-Romero was questioned the next day by Senior Special Agent Daniel Ahlquist of the BCA who told her nothing would happen if she told the truth. But, if she continued to lie, she would get the same or half of what Dominguez got.
The last witness of the day was Special Agent Chad Museus of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). He assisted Ahlquist of the BCA in the investigation of Brown’s murder. He said he went to Hutchinson, met with Dominguez at his residence and asked him to come to the local police department to talk about his involvement with Brown.
“Dominguez was not under arrest at first, but when the BCA learned from Ahlquist that Morales-Romero was talking, we arrested him,” he said.
Several videos were shown in court at that time, with Museus explaining each step of the action. The first was from the Super America in Little Falls, at a little after 4 a.m. on Oct. 3, 2011. It showed Amber, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, purchasing drinks and cigarettes, plus checking her phone. The car she was driving looked like the one presumed owned by Dominguez.
The next DVD was of the Rice Holiday Gas Station at approximately 5:35 a.m. on Oct. 3, 2011. Morales-Romero is shown wearing a black, long-sleeved T-shirt. She purchased bleach and other items from the store.
Another DVD was played showing both Dominguez and Morales-Romero in the Rice Car Wash. He is wearing a light shirt and grey shorts. They proceed to wash both the interior and exterior of the car and his shoes. They also vacuum the car and threw away items. They left the car wash at approximately 5:06 a.m.
The last DVD was of Dominguez and Morales-Romero in the Hutchinson Walmart, purchasing a shovel, knife, flashlight and cereal. They were both wearing different clothing. She was wearing pink pants, a light-colored shirt and different shoes. He was wearing grey sweat pants, a white T-shirt and light-colored shoes.
Other witnesses Tuesday included Francisco Pena-Ariet who now lives in West Virginia. At the time of the murder, he lived with his family at the Little Falls Cottages. He said he was awakened at about 3 a.m. by his young daughter and then heard loud bangs at about 3:30 or 4 a.m. He looked out a window and saw a small fire and a silhouette in Brown’s window of a man hold his stomach, then fall. Before he went outside, he had his wife call the manager of the cottages, Jodi Maxson. Pena-Ariet said he knocked on the door of Brown’s trailer, but there was no answer. He did see a car leave the area.
Officer Andrew Erlandson, a Hutchinson police officer, testified about his surveillance of the 7-Hi Budget Motel Oct. 3, 2011, and in particular, Dominguez’ residence. He said he saw the defendant removed clothing and a bottle of bleach or detergent from his car and return to room 11. A half hour later, Dominguez walked to room 22, then exit with two juveniles. He drove away and returned with groceries in about a half hour. When other officers arrived, Erlandson drove into the lot and contact was made with Dominguez.
Also testifying was Elizabeth Wagner, the 15-year-old daughter of Morales-Romero. She said she knew Dominguez as a neighbor.
Wagner recounted the day on the lake and the trip to Little Falls. She said she heard no arguments.
The following day, Oct. 3, 2011, she spoke with Dominguez about the issue with the $1,400 he said Brown owed him.
“He said he would kill Brown, but I said that it was stupid and that he was only saying that because he was mad,” she said.
Klumpp brought up the fact that Wagner had said in a taped statement to the grand jury that Dominguez also threatened to burn the house down.
Alex Aughinbaugh, an operations consultant with Verizon Wireless, and Ricardo Leal, an analyst with Sprint Nextell both gave testimony on the calls between Dominguez and Morales-Romero the night of the murder and the following day.
Benton County Deputy Sheriff Sean Gales, the seventh witness, said he assisted in the investigation by gathering witnesses from the Little Falls Cottages and helped search for the tennis shoes tossed from Dominguez’ car. He also located a purse, children’s clothing and a stocking cap at the car wash by checking the garbage.
Trooper Richard Kitzmil-ler assisted in the investigation by driving Highway 15 from Highway 10 to Hutchinson looking for the black tennis shoes. He said he drove on the shoulder of the highway at 20 miles per hour, at night with his spotlight on. He found one shoe two miles north of Kimball and another 50 feet away.
Stearns County Deputy Nathan Stewart and a member of the Violent Offender Task Force, assisted in the investigating by canvassing the area around the Little Falls Cottages, collecting the shoes from Kitzmiller and looking for items at the Rice Car Wash. He said he found rags with stains which smelled of bleach.
Transaction journals from Oct. 3, 2011, were provided by Rachel Scheve from the Holiday Gas Station in Rice, Jessica Wenzel, the Super America manager in Hutchinson, Sheila Ellman, asset protection manager at the Hutchinson Walmart and Wendalyn Wagner, a prior Super America manager in Little Falls. Those journals showed the transactions of Morales-Romero and Dominguez and a time line of their whereabouts.
The prosecution expects to finish with witnesses by noon Thursday. The jury will probably go into deliberation that afternoon.