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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

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Hazel Dell man accused of murder in shooting death of roommate

By , Columbian Local News Editor

A Hazel Dell man is accused of shooting his roommate during an argument Tuesday afternoon at their house on Northwest 82nd Street. Authorities identified the victim Thursday as 45-year-old Michael Neil Brachais.

Justin Nicholas Romero, 31, made a first appearance on a second-degree murder allegation Thursday morning in Clark County Superior Court. Judge David Gregerson set bail at $750,000. Romero will be arraigned July 22.

Court records indicate the men argued over Romero’s desire for Brachais to move out. An affidavit of probable cause alludes to some kind of recent conflict and notes a calendar found in Romero’s bedroom with entries on June 2: “Trash pile lit on fire, Arson suspected? – Mike??” and June 4: “2 incindiary devices throw @Hery, Crash stayed and witnessed, All signs point to mike as cause [sic].”

Clark County sheriff’s deputies had responded around 2:25 p.m. for a report of a possible shooting at 620 N.W. 82nd St. About a dozen sheriff’s office patrol cars and major crimes detectives responded. The SWAT team was called out, and a drone was deployed over the residence.

A neighbor said she had just returned home when she saw a woman leave the house at the corner of 82nd Street and Sixth Avenue, approach a man in a black pickup and yell for him to call 911. The man began to drive away, but he slowed to tell the neighbor someone had been shot, according to the affidavit.

The neighbor said she saw the woman return to the house, and she called 911. While on the phone, she saw the woman leave the house again, carrying a baby and leading three children to a green SUV. A man got into the driver’s seat, and they drove away, the affidavit says. Another neighbor, who was outside, had heard the gunshots and also called 911.

During the law enforcement response, a deputy called out to anyone inside the home, telling them to come outside with their hands up or to call 911 if they were unable to exit.

Investigators then entered the house, due to the nature of the call, and found Brachais dead inside near the front door, according to the affidavit.

The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office on Thursday said Brachais died of multiple gunshot wounds and ruled his death a homicide, meaning it resulted from another person’s deliberate action. The ruling does not make any judgments about criminal culpability.

Investigators said they found empty .40-caliber bullet casings on the living room floor and several bullet holes in the walls, court records state.

A neighbor said they had sold a green 1995 GMC Yukon to Romero a year or two earlier. Another neighbor identified the woman, who left the house, as Jessica Perrigo; investigators later found her driver’s license in a bedroom, the affidavit says.

About two hours after the shooting, two of Romero’s children were dropped off at their mother’s residence. She told investigators that a man named Michael B. had been Romero’s roommate for the last five months, and she identified him as the dead man from a photo, according to the affidavit.

She also told investigators Romero owns a black pistol that he keeps in a safe, which investigators said they found open and empty. They located an empty holster in the house, as well, court records state.

Romero’s 9-year-old stepson told investigators he heard his father yelling at Brachais to get out of the house or he would shoot him. He then heard gunshots and what sounded like someone jumping or falling to the floor. Romero then came into the room, picked up the boy and took him out the bedroom window. Romero’s 5-year-old daughter also told investigators she heard gunshots and that her father carried her out a window, according to court documents.

The affidavit says Perrigo was later found — though it doesn’t say when or where — and she told investigators she was making food for the children when Brachais and Romero came inside from the garage, arguing.

Romero was yelling and cursing at Brachais to get out, she said, and she heard Brachais say, “Just shoot me.” She then heard several gunshots, came into the living room and saw Brachais on the floor, she said. She ran outside, flagged down a motorist for help, and then left with Romero and the children, according to the affidavit.

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Romero was arrested Wednesday at a residence in Camas, court records show.

“Justin made unsolicited statements that he knew we were coming for him,” the arresting officer wrote in the affidavit. Romero subsequently requested an attorney.