BOSTON, NY - New York State Police have arrested a suspect in a 34 year old murder case.
According to police, Michael Rodriguez, 59, was arrested this morning on Pries Avenue in South Buffalo, and charged with the grisly slaying of his former wife Patti Rodriguez , whose body was discovered in Lackawanna's Holy Cross Cemetery on April 13, 1979.
Mrs. Rodriguez had been stabbed more than 100 times according to prosecutors.
A special grand jury handed up the indictment charging Rodriguez with Murder on Tuesday.
After being processed at the State Police Barracks in Boston, NY. Rodriguez was transported to downtown Buffalo, where he appeared before State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia for arraignment.
His Attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf and Rodriguez is being held without bail.
The NYS Attorney General's office is prosecuting the case.
In court, Assistant State Attorney General Paul McCarthy revealed that after a hearing in September, Rodriguez was compelled to submit a DNA sample, which turned out to be critical to the case.
McCarthy, who described the prosecution's case as "strong", indicated that Rodriguez's DNA matched samples obtained from the bloody clothes of the victim. McCarthy also stated the people were ready to produce a number of eye witnesses as part of the case.
He said a number of eyewitnesses saw the couple in a bar together the evening before Mrs. Rodriguez's body was discovered, and that at least one other saw them in the cemetery that night.
In addition McCarthy indicated there are several other witnesses prepared to testify that over the past 34 years Rodriguez made "admissions" to them regarding his involvement in his wife's killing.
In moving that Rodriguez be held without bail, McCarthy described the defendant as a dangerous man with an extensive criminal past, including violent crimes.
"I personally have interviewed a number of witnesses who fear Michael Rodriguez and what he might do to them," McCarthy stated in court.
McCarthy also ran down a litany of prior crimes Rodriguez had been charged with between 1975 and 1995, including several assaults, escape, burglary, intimidating a witness to a crime, and aggravated harassment. In addition, McCarthy revealed that Rodriguez served six months in jail in 1981, after being charged with assault with a weapon.
McCarthy said criminal background checks also revealed, however, that Rodriguez, hasn't committed any crimes in the past 18 years.
The State Attorney General's Office leading a homicide prosecution is somewhat of a rarity, as such crimes in New York State are generally prosecuted by a county District Attorney.
In a statement, Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said, "Several months ago, members of the New York State Attorney General's Office conferred with members of the Erie County District Attorney's Office Homicide Bureau about the continuing investigation of the Patti Rodriguez homicide and the viability of a criminal prosecution against the chief suspect, Michael Rodriguez. After discussing the case at length with the Attorney General's Office, the Erie County District Attorney's Office agreed that the case should be assigned to the Attorney General's Office.
However, Sedita did not indicate why the decision was made, and outside of court McCarthy did not shed any additional light on the matter, only saying that state and local agencies often work cooperatively together.
A woman who lives a few doors down from Rodriguez's home on Pries Avenue told WGRZ-TV that Rodriguez had two young children and "was a good neighbor."
Not much more than a block from where Rodriguez was arrested this morning is the home of his alleged victim's mother, Pat Scinta, who told Two On Your Side she had long suspected her ex son in law was responsible for her daughter's death.
"He was rather high strung...he'd think nothing of hitting her. When she was pregnant he hit her...to me he was a violent person," said Scinta, who is relieved an arrest has finally been made. "it's kind of hard to remember things like that over and over but I do it anyway. I wake up every morning thinking of her," she said.