Rendell Signs Death Warrants

HARRISBURG – Gov. Edward G. Rendell signed death warrants for a Philadelphian who bragged about the murder of a community town watchman, as well as a man who participated in the murder of an Allentown landlord.

Edwin Rios Romero, 43, who strangled David Bolasky on Jan. 3, 1995, in Allentown, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on March 25. Romero’s death warrant is the Governor’s 77th.

The governor’s 78th death warrant now belongs to Ricardo Natividad, 38, who was convicted in the Nov. 9, 1996, murder of Robert Campbell. Natividad is scheduled to die by lethal injection on March 27.

Officials say the New York City-born Romero strangled Bolasky to death as part of a scheme to get money for a return trip to Florida. Romero and two other men had arrived in Allentown the day before to see one of the other men’s nephews, Miguel Moreno.

The plot involved luring Bolasky, who then was a landlord and a vice-president and project manager for the architecture firm of Wallace and Watson Associates in Allentown, into Moreno’s apartment to steal the rent he had collected from other tenants.

Bolasky had only collected $300 by the time Moreno found the man and told him he wanted to pay two months of rent, but that the rest of the rent was in his apartment.

When Bolasky entered the apartment, Moreno introduced him to his uncle, George Lopez, who was sitting on the couch in the living room. Moreno excused himself, saying he needed to go downstairs because he had forgotten some of the money. While the landlord waited for Moreno’s return, Lopez pulled out a gun and forced him to the back of the apartment where Romero and the other man, Jorge Barbosa, were hiding.

After failing to strangle Bolasky to death with a rope, Romero switched to a towel and he, Barbosa and Lopez took turns tightening the towel around Bolasky’s throat until he died.

Three days later, on Jan. 6, 1995, police found Bolasky’s body in the woods near a secluded road; his corpse frozen and the towel that had been used to strangle him was still tied around his neck.

On March 19, 1996, a jury found Romero and Lopez guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, theft by unlawful taking. It returned death sentences for both men a day later.

Two warrants were issued in Romero’s case, but his execution was stayed the first time to allow the filing of a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court; the second time was to allow post-conviction proceedings in the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas.

Post-conviction relief was denied by the lower court on Sept. 15, 2000, and the state Supreme Court affirmed that decision last month, thus lifting the second stay.

In the case of Natividad, officials said he shot Campbell in the head soon after the town watchman had pulled his yellow Cadillac up to a gas station at 63rd and Vine streets in Philadelphia. The incident happened nearly 20 hours after Natividad had robbed, carjacked and threatened to kill another man, Michael Havens. Eyewitnesses said Natividad made his escape in Havens’ navy blue Lincoln.

A day later, Natividad continued to drive around the neighborhood in Havens’ Lincoln, and even pulled up to a group of men on a street corner and said, “I got that body, the town watch man.”

Natividad remained on the loose until March 17, 1997, when a woman tipped police that Natividad was standing in front of a liquor store. Natividad tried to runaway when he saw officers approaching him but, after a three-block foot chase, he was captured and arrested — within sight of Philly’s Famous Cheese Steak restaurant, where he had attacked Havens.

A jury convicted Natividad of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and related charges on Nov. 10, 1997.

The state Supreme Court affirmed Natividad’s death sentence on June 25, 2001, and denied re-argument on Aug. 15, 2001. The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari on May 28, 2002, and an execution warrant was issued on Aug. 27. The execution was stayed, however, on Oct. 2, 2002, by the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, pending resolution of post-conviction proceedings.

Post-conviction relief was denied Dec. 20, 2005, and the state Supreme Court affirmed that denial last month.

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