Armando Botell is behind bars for the murder of 17-year-old Romina Fernandez and setting her body on fire in Miami-Dade County, Florida.
Romina was born in Uruguay, and by the time she was two, she was living in Miami, Florida, with her relatives.
When she turned nine, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which required her to inject herself with insulin after every meal.
In 2013, Romina was having complications from the disease and had to leave school because she was absent for far too many days.
She attended Miami Killian Senior High School, according to the Miami Herald.
While at home, Romina was studying to take the GED test as well as looking for a job—her dream was to work in the beauty industry.
It all changed on Oct. 10, 2014, when Romina didn’t return to her home at Li’l Abner Mobile Home Park in Sweetwater, leaving her medication behind.
At around 6:20 p.m., she called her friends and said she was no longer able to be their friend because she was going to move to New York with a man.
Romina spoke to her friends in Spanish, something she wouldn’t normally do.
According to her mother, Romina “spoke perfect English and perfect Spanish. But she spoke to her friends in English and to family in Spanish. That has to have some significance.”
She then sent the following letter to her mother in the mail:
“Hi mom, I’m OK. I’m moving to New York with a friend. He bought me food and my medicine. Don’t worry. I’ll call you in a month.”
“Something about that message just wasn’t right,” said Romina’s mother. “I knew something was wrong.”
On Oct. 11, 2014, Romina was reported missing. At around 9:15 p.m. that night, law enforcement was called to the strip mall on Flagler Street and 114th Avenue after receiving calls about a fire.
Officers arrived on the scene and went to the back of the building. That’s when they noticed an object on the ground that was engulfed in flames.
When firefighters extinguished the fire, they realized it was a body that had been “burned to a charred crisp,” said Sweetwater Capt. Jorge Fernandez de Lara.
The body was later identified through dental records as that of Romina.
“She was always smiling,” said the teen’s mother. “If she was going through something, it never showed.”
An autopsy revealed that Romina had been strangled.
In May 2015, police officials arrested Botell, who was 66 years old at the time he was booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail, on charges of second-degree murder.
He was held without bond.
Investigators said Botell and Romina knew each other.
According to the police report, “He [Botell] had been selling and providing the victim with Xanax and other drugs since the victim was 15 years old.”
“The relationship developed into an intimate and stalking relationship to the point that the defendant Became obsessed with the victim, eventually paying a friend to follow the victim around.”
A witness told police that Botell “was becoming emotionally distraught over his obsession with the victim, and he became physically abusive.”
There were also nude photos of Romina that were found on Botell’s phone, police said.
It was learned through an investigation that, on the day of Romina’s disappearance, she met up with Botell in downtown Miami around 2:30 a.m.
They then went to Sweetwater, where he lived, as her cell phone pinged off towers that were close to Botell’s home. But investigators are unsure if he kidnapped her or if she went to his home on her own.
According to police Lt. John Jenkins, surveillance footage from the mall captured the moment someone exited a silver Mercedes-Benz and discarded Romina’s body near the dumpster.
They then set it on fire before fleeing the scene.
Jenkins stated that the vehicle was registered to Botell, who had served time in prison for a murder conviction in 1980.
He had been questioned multiple times within seven months, and police said “his story didn’t add up.”
“Based on the cell phone tower records and based on witness information, his story had changed, at which time he was arrested and charged accordingly,” said Jenkins.
In July 2019, Botell took a plea deal and pleaded guilty to murdering Romina and mutilating her corpse. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison, with credit for the time he had already served.
Upon his release, Botell will have to undergo two years of community-controlled electronic monitoring. And he will also be placed on probation for eight years.
Botell’s attorney said, “He is very sorry and very remorseful about what happened, and it’s a tragedy for the family of Romina, the victim.”
Prison records show that he is serving his time at the Jefferson Correctional Institution in Monticello, Florida, and he is scheduled to be released in 2027.