Rodriguez pleads not guilty to murder charge in ’79 cold case slaying - The Buffalo News

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Rodriguez pleads not guilty to murder charge in ’79 cold case slaying

The South Buffalo man charged with murdering his wife 34 years ago in Lackawanna was ordered held without bail today.

Michael Rodriguez, 59, pleaded not guilty before State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia.

Prosecutor Paul McCarthy of the State Attorney General’s Office asked that Rodriguez be held without bail based on what he called the strong evidence against him in the slaying of Patty Rodriguez. Her body was found with 108 stab wounds on April 13, 1979 – Good Friday – in Holy Cross Cemetery. She was 21 and the mother of two children.

McCarthy told the judge the defendant’s DNA was found on the victim’s clothing.

He said witnesses indicated they saw Rodriguez and his wife together the evening before her body was found and that they also saw them enter Holy Cross Cemetery that night.

They were reportedly seen leaving Danny Boy’s bar at Abbott Road and Dorrance Avenue where they had been drinking at a Drink and Drown night.

McCarthy also told the judge that Rodriguez has an extensive criminal record from May 1974 to August 1995, including numerous arrests for assault as well as burglary and weapons possession.

He said his last arrest was in Genesee County in 1995 on charges of assault and harassment. He said Rodriguez was later charged and pleaded guilty to intimidating a witness in that case.

“A number of witnesses have expressed a fear of what he would do to them,” he said.

McCarthy also noted Rodriguez faces up to 25 years to life in prison on the murder indictment, which was returned Tuesday afternoon by a special grand jury.

Rodriguez 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 re-interviewed witnesses, gleaning additional information.

Prosecutors obtained a court order in September for a DNA sample from Rodriguez.

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said that after discussing the case with the Attorney General’s Office, he agreed that the case should be assigned to that office. Since then, he said additional investigation has been undertaken under the direction of the Attorney General’s Office and discussions have continued between members of his office and the state office, including discussions between Sedita and Assistant Attorney General Kelly Donovan, chief of the Criminal Division of the Attorney General’s Office.

“I applaud the efforts of both the New York State Police and the New York State Attorney General’s Office. Whether it is the United States Attorney’s Office, the New York State Attorney General’s Office or the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, at the end of the day, which agency prosecutes the case is not nearly as important as that the defendant is brought to justice,” he said.

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