ANDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – In three decades, a family’s tragedy has been relived through the emotional retelling of what happened to letters and documents about the case sent in the mail.
For members of this Union County family, the reality of what happened March 17, 1986 isn’t a memory in the past, but a call for action now, 33 years later.
Eddie Campbell has boxes of documents relating to the rape, torture, and murders of his aunt, Wanda Romines, and his cousin, Sheila Romines. Since his uncle’s death in 2008, Campbell has become the sole representative for the family on matters of the case, including one of the first notified in appeals and changes to the execution date for the man convicted of their murders.
Campbell said he is fulfilling a promise he made to his uncle more than 30 years ago, just hours after the crime: to find justice for their family.
“I think they were happy. Wanda really loved Jack and Jack loved Wanda. Sheila was the apple of his eye. She really was, that’s the only child he ever had. He was attached to her,” said Campbell.
Remembering the details of what happened, Campbell can only describe as “a horrific tragedy” that he is reminded of when court dates change or appeals are filed.
Campbell hopes that by sharing the story of his aunt and cousin, he’ll keep their memories alive far longer than their killer — hopeful no other family will wait decades for justice.
March 17, 1986
Jack Romines left for work early every morning, gone by 5:30 a.m. In March 1986, his home was being watched by Stephen Michael West, 23, and Ronnie Martin, 17. Both waiting to see when he left.
On that day, he went to work around 5:20 a.m. Wanda, his wife, and Sheila, his 15-year-old daughter, were home at the time.
During his trial, West testified he and Martin went to door shortly after Jack left for work. Wanda let them into their home in Maynardville, she knew Martin as an acquaintance from Sheila’s school. Martin introduced West, and they asked for money.
“She was a good athlete, she did a lot of clogging. Good athlete. She could make the taps really sing. She was good on the basketball court. She played for Anderson County High School,’ said Eddie Campbell.
West and Martin raped, tortured, and stabbed Wanda and Sheila dozens of times, according to testimony in their trial a year later.
They were left in separate rooms of their home, partially clothed, found hours later by Jack when he was home from work.
“He went around to the back, they never used the back door at all, they had a refrigerator over the door. He knew something was wrong,” said Campbell.
Campbell said his mother, who raised Jack too, called him to get to the Romines home as soon as she learned what happened. Campbell said by the time he arrived, police were already at the scene and an investigation was underway.
“When he found them, he just ran out in a rage. It was just awful,” said Campbell.
Jack tried to continue living in the home, but didn’t make it through the first night, and never moved back in.
Neighbors were able to positively identify West and Martin because their car got stuck in a ditch as they were leaving the Romines home after their crimes. In the process of helping them out of a ditch, paint from the car struck a pole, used later to identify the vehicle used.
West and Martin were arrested a day later after a sketch artist’s drawing was positively identified.
The two met working at a McDonald’s and were found near it when they were arrested.
The trial and justice
The trial for both West and Martin, tried as co-defendants, took place a year to the week later, March 1987.
Campbell said Jack was in the courtroom everyday, listening to testimony and evidence about the crimes against his wife and daughter.
“West got on the witness stand, just like the Martin boy told the police, it was all… it was done. There was no doubt about what happened or who did what.. why it lasted 33 years? I can’t understand that. That’s something I don’t get,” said Campbell.
He said nor he, or Jack, expected to wait as long as they did for the execution to happen. Especially when, Campbell said, they both heard the confessions in court.
“The system is broken. it needs to be fixed. 33 years is ridiculous for a family to go through this…” said Campbell.
Execution date set
Nearly a year ago, Campbell received a letter notifying him of the new execution date: August 15, 2019.
Now, he’s less than a month away, but it’s a feeling he’s had before. Although he’s hopeful this year will be different, he says he isn’t waiting in anger, but instead, in forgiveness.
“It’s sort of hard, its been a tough thing to go through, every time something would come up, whether it was something to do with West… it brings up bad memories every time it happens,” said Campbell.
Legally, because he is not a direct relative to the victims, related to Jack because they were raised together, he was considered a nephew, he won’t be allowed to witness the execution. He says he plans to attend, if allowed, as part of the promise he made to Jack.
Campbell says he tries to live a Christian life and says he’s forgiven West, but still believes the punishment to the crime should have happened sooner than it has.
Martin, because of his age, was sentenced to life in prison. He’s currently incarcerated in Morgan County.