34 years after Lackawanna murder, police charge victim’s husband - The Buffalo News

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34 years after Lackawanna murder, police charge victim’s husband

A South Buffalo man state authorities say killed his wife 34 years ago by plunging a knife into her 108 times is scheduled to be arraigned in State Supreme Court this morning.

Michael Rodriguez, 59, was arrested at about 6 a.m. today at his Pries Avenue home by state police and Lackawanna police along with a state attorney general investigator. State police reopened the long unsolved murder case in 2009 at the request of Lackawanna Police Chief James Michel.

In reviewing the cold case, State Police Senior Investigator Christopher Weber took a second look at forensic evidence gathered in the cemetery, used scientific technology that did not exist at the time of the slaying and reinterviewed witnesses, gleaning additional information.

“We can confirm he’s been arrested but we cannot comment on the charge,” said State Police Capt. Steven A. Nigrelli, head of the state police criminal investigation bureau in Batavia.

The body of Patty Rodriguez was 21 and the mother of two young children was found April 13, 1979, Good Friday in Lackawanna’s Holy Cross Cemetery.

She was last seen with her estranged husband, leaving the bar Danny Boy’s at Abbott Road and Dorrance Avenue. Witnesses had reported seeing them drinking there at a Drink and Drown night.

It has previously been made public that the State Police were reinvestigating the case and Rodriguez, the estranged husband, was aware of it because Weber obtained a court order seeking a DNA swab from him.

Rodriguez was named in an indictment that was unsealed Tuesday. He is scheduled to appear later this morning before State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia. Making the arrest were Buffalo police officers, Lackawanna police officers and an investigator from the State Attorney General’s office.

The case will be prosecuted by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Dana Britton, Lackawanna’s director of public safety, previously told The News that Michael Rodriguez had been a the main suspect “from the first day.”

“This pretty young woman was lying on her back on a flat gravestone, with her clothes all in disarray. She had been horribly brutalized, stabbed all over her body,” Britton told The News in 2012. “To me, that’s an indication of rage, a very personal reason for killing someone.”

Lackawanna police during their investigation had been told that Michael Rodriguez had beaten Patty repeatedly in the past,

And Patty Rodriguez’s mother told The News that she saw her daughter on numerous occasions with bruises from beatings by her husband,

“One time, he was hitting her right here in our front hallway," the mother said, “I grabbed him by the hair and made him stop."

Michael Rodriguez in 2004 told The News that he, too, was distraught about his wife’s murder and wanted the killer caught.

He told The News that he and his wife never had any “bad animosity” but that they were legally separated.

“It’s a loss,” Rodriguez said of his wife’s death. ”It’s something always in your heart."

Rodriguez later remarried and has two children by the new marriage.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released a statement about the arrest late this morning. “No crime, particularly one as heinous as this, should go unsolved,” he said. “I hope that this arrest brings a measure of justice to the family and friends of Ms. Rodriguez. Today’s indictment in a brutal murder from 34 years ago shows that we will never stop trying to solve cold cases and that those responsible will eventually face justice. I want to thank the New York State Police and Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico for working with us on this investigation.”

email: lmichel@buffnews.com

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