Convicted of murder over racing pigeons, he’s now dead after suspected jail suicide

The Miami man convicted last month of murdering a friend over prized racing pigeons has died after a suspected suicide attempt in jail.

Lazaro Romero, 47, was found unresponsive inside his cell at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center earlier this month just as South Florida was scrambling to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Irma. Romero was taken to a nearby hospital, where he later died on Sept. 7.

His death is being investigated by Miami-Dade police detectives. Authorities have not disclosed how Romero died, and the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office has yet to rule on a cause and manner of death.

It was a tragic end for Romero, who was convicted of the November 2013 stabbing death of Yoan Vazquez in Miami. The killing roiled the small but devoted South Florida community devoted to the sport of pigeon racing. The sport is particularly popular in Cuba, where Vazquez and Romero first learned how racing pigeons.

“All around, this case has been an enormous tragedy,” said his defense attorney, Julia Seifer-Smith. “I’ve only known Lazaro to have an incredible remorse about it having happened. He’s only shown me and my co-counsel kindness and he has an incredible love for his family and overwhelming pride in his sons.”

A Miami-Dade jail spokesman declined to comment because of the ongoing investigation.

Prosecutors said Romero believed Vazquez owed him 20 prized racing pigeons, and went with his brother to the man’s home to get them back at knife point. Romero and his brother attacked Vazquez in his backyard — while the man’s 6-year-old daughter watched.

Romero did not stab Vazquez; it was his brother, Freddy Romero, who delivered the fatal knife thrusts. Freddy Romero pleaded guilty and is now doing 25 years in prison.

At trial, Romero’s defense lawyers said he never planned to hurt Vazquez — and had no idea that his brother would fatally stab the man.

The jury on Aug. 31 deliberated less than two hours before deciding he was guilty of second-degree murder. Romero had been out on bail before the trial, but was taken back into custody after his conviction.

He faced up to life in prison, and was to be sentenced sometime in the coming months.