Homeowner accused of child sex crime years before 6-year-old’s death

It’s been five days since Rio Rancho Police and the FBI were called to a home on Moonstone Drive. 

Newly released search warrants state Ariana Romeo’s lifeless body was found cold and half-naked inside a garage that was turned into a makeshift bedroom. 

Those search warrants also indicated Romeo had likely been sexually assaulted, and police were looking for items that could be used to strangle or beat someone.

Now, KRQE News 13 has obtained a police report from 2011 filed under the homeowner’s name, 63-year-old Winston Scates.

In that report, the mother of a 4-year-old girl reported her daughter was molested while visiting a home in Rio Rancho. 

In a safe house interview with the girl, she told investigators a man she called “Papa,” who she described as wearing a ponytail, touched her on her genitals.  

The 4-year-old also said the man, who she also referred to as “the boy,” locked her in a bathroom and duct-taped her mouth. She said he touched her with a toy while in the bathroom in the tub, and in another room. 

During questioning, the man who lives in the home claimed he was out of town when the alleged incident happened.

However, when police asked if he’d ever been accused of this type of crime before, he “hesitantly” replied “yes.”

The man accused of the child sex crime was never arrested or charged for the alleged assault. 

Wednesday, Rio Rancho Police said it was due to a lack of cooperation from the girl’s “guardians” that they could not take the case to prosecution. 

Rio Rancho Police would not say if the homeowner was in the home on Moonstone Drive at the time of Ariana Romeo’s death, but did say they are considering the case from 2011 while they continue this current investigation. 

According to the search warrants, Ariana Romeo and her mom had only been staying at the house on Moonstone Drive for a short time. It did not say how they knew the homeowner or why they were staying with him. 

KRQE News 13 has also learned that CYFD had been called to check on Ariana Romeo and her mother last year. 

CYFD says they got a tip in October when the family was living in Carlsbad. The department says they can’t talk about why the caller was concerned, but CYFD says it did not meet the criteria for an investigation. 

As part of protocol, the tip was also turned over to police. Carlsbad police say they are looking into whether they investigated the case.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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