"Who would think an 8-year-old kid could kill two adults?" said St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnick Friday.
"It was such a tragedy," said the boy's defense attorney, Benjamin Brewer. "You have two people dead; you have an 8-year-old in jail. It tugs at the heart strings. It's a shocker, no doubt about it."
Romans had been renting a room at the Romero house, prosecutors said. The two men were employees with a construction company that had a contract to do work at the Salt River Project power plant near St. Johns, which is about 170 miles northeast of Phoenix.
The boy had went to a neighbor's house and said he "believed that his father was dead," said Apache County attorney Brad Carlyon. Police later obtained a confession from the boy, Melnick said.
"They became very accusing early on in the interview," Brewer said. "Two officers with guns at their side, it's very scary for anybody, for sure an 8-year-old kid."
A judge has ordered a psychological evaluation of the child, who was being held at the Apache County juvenile detention center.
"There's a ton of factors to be considered and weighed, including the juvenile's age," he said. "The counter balance against that, the acts that he apparently committed."
Carlyon said the boy had no record of complaints with Arizona Child Protective Services.
"He had no record of any kind, not even a disciplinary record at school," he said. "He has never been in trouble before."
City Manager Greg Martin said the community was "saddened" and "shocked."
"Not something that happens very often and hopefully never happens again," he said. "It's been on their minds every since it happened."
Under Arizona law, a juvenile under 8 years old is treated as a dependent child. Charges can be filed against anyone 8 or older, which Melnick argued are warranted in this case. He said the child didn't act on the "spur of the moment," though he didn't elaborate on what the motive might have been.
Brewer, the defense attorney, said the child "seems to be in good spirits.
"He's scared," he said. "He's trying to be tough, but he's scared."