An Erie County jury Friday found Michael Rodriguez guilty of second-degree murder for the 1979 killing of his estranged wife, Patricia Scinta Rodriguez.
Her body was found in a deserted section of Lackawanna’s Holy Cross Cemetery on Good Friday, April 13, 1979. She had been stabbed at least 108 times.
“Our goal in bringing this case was to get justice for Patti and I hope today’s verdict brings a small measure of comfort to her family and friends,” said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “No murder should go unsolved. Today’s verdict is a reminder that we will never stop seeking justice for victims and their families.”
During the trial, several witnesses testified that on the night before her body was found, they saw Patricia Rodriguez and the defendant dancing at Danny Boy’s, a local bar. A longtime neighbor of Michael Rodriguez testified he saw the pair leave the bar and enter the cemetery together. It was the last time anyone saw Patricia Rodriguez alive.
Michael Rodriguez’s girlfriend at the time, Donna Williams, testified that, just a few hours later, Rodriguez called her and said he “killed Patti in the graveyard.” Just 19 years old at the time, Williams cleaned Rodriguez’s bloody, brown leather jacket when he came home that morning and later provided an alibi for Rodriguez in interviews with police.
She testified that she lied to police because she loved Rodriguez, was pregnant with his child and wanted to build a life with him. However, on the 30th anniversary of the murder, the New York State Police, led by Senior Investigator Christopher Weber, reopened the investigation and Williams felt compelled to come forward to police and tell the truth.
In 2009, when the New York State Police’s Major Crimes Unit reopened the case, forensic testing of the brown leather jacket determined that four dried bloodstains on the jacket matched Patricia Rodriguez’s DNA. Additional forensic testing in 2013 identified Michael Rodriguez’s DNA inside an intimate area of the clothing the victim was wearing on the night she was killed.
Rodriguez faces 15 years to life in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 21 by Erie County Court Judge Michael L. D’Amico.