A trans-identified male who participated in the sadistic sexual abuse of a 7-year-old girl is now being housed in a women’s facility in New Jersey.
Ashley Romero, born Adam, was one of four people sentenced earlier this month on multiple convictions related to child sexual abuse and human trafficking.
Romero was initially arrested in 2019 after Child Protection Services became alerted to a pornography company being run out of a residence where a minor resided. After search warrant was executed at the property and it was determined the child had likely been exposed to sexually explicit material, electronic devices were subsequently seized.
During forensic examination of the devices, several sexually-explicit photos and videos of the 7-year-old were found, including media of Romero sexually abusing the girl.
The girl was the biological daughter of another trans-identified male who lived in the home, Marina Volz. Romero and Volz had taken the child from her mother, who lived in Oregon, and brought her to New Jersey for the purposes of forcing her into the child sexual exploitation material industry.
For his role in the girl’s abuse, Romero was handed a 25-year-sentence, with convictions on counts of human trafficking, sexual assault of a victim under the age of 13, child pornography possession, and more.
But according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC), Romero is now being housed in the women’s section of the Somerset County Jail while awaiting transfer to the Edna Mahan Women’s Correctional Facility.
Romero appears to have had a legal document change as his records state he is a ‘female.’ This is in contrast to Marina Volz, who is listed as a male and is currently being housed in South Woods State Prison, a men’s facility. But legal action set by the ACLU will allow for Volz to request transfer and very likely be successful.
Last year, a settlement agreement was reached between the ACLU and the NJDOC which stipulated that transgender inmates must be housed on the basis of their self-declared gender identity. At the time, the ACLU had been fighting on behalf of a trans-identified male inmate who had been housed in a men’s institution and allegedly faced abuse and discrimination.
After the settlement was won, the New Jersey ACLU praised the decision, with staff attorney Tess Bordan saying: “The settlement of this lawsuit puts in place systemic, far-reaching policy changes to recognize and respect the gender identity of people in prison – with housing based on gender identity, use of appropriate pronouns, access to gender-affirming property, and much more.”
One notable trans-identified male inmate currently being housed in Edna Mahan, likely as the result of the ACLU’s efforts, is Perry Cerf. Cerf was convicted for the brutal rape, torture, and murder of 47-year-old Ecuadoran immigrant Flor Andrade in 2002. Cerf now goes by “Michelle Hel-loki Angelina.”
Volz and Romero ran what they described as a “family-owned, transgender” pornography company, which specialized in BDSM, fetish, and taboo content.
While avoiding providing full details of the extent of the little girl’s ordeal during sentencing on May 6, Judge Peter Tober noted the child had been subjected to torture-like conditions, referencing the presence of neck collars, a cage in the basement, and sex toys that were used on her.
“If this was not heinous, cruel and depraved, I don’t know what is,” Judge Tober said, stating that the girl had been taken from her actual mother “solely for the sexual gratification” of others.
Assistant Somerset County Prosecutor Brian Stack said the four, who had formed a sadistic family unit, were “incapable of redemption,” noting that none had taken responsibility for the harm they’d done. He called the little girl’s life in the home a “vortex of darkness.”
The child is currently living with relatives, and Volz has surrendered all parental rights.
While Volz and Romero were both given 25 year sentences on convictions including child sexual abuse and human trafficking, the two other adults in the home were also convicted.
Sean Allen, who was handed a 12-year sentence for his role in the crimes, and Dulcinea Gnecco, who was also charged on four counts of child endangerment. Gnecco, the home’s cook and child caretaker, was given the most lenient of the sentences and is slated for release in 2023.
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