A former girlfriend of Michael Rodriguez and one of his cellmates in Erie County Holding Center testified Thursday that Rodriguez admitted killing his estranged wife more than 35 years ago.
The testimony came as both sides rested at Rodriguez’s murder trial.
The jury is expected to start deliberating today following closing statements by attorneys and instructions from Erie County Judge Michael L. D’Amico.
Rodriguez, 60, is accused of stabbing Patricia Rodriguez 108 times early on Good Friday morning Nov. 13, 1979, in Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna after they met at Danny Boy’s bar and went to the cemetery. She was 21.
The defendant, who has remarried, was indicted last November after State Police began a cold case investigation of the slaying, using DNA testing on evidence from the cemetery and his home.
Mary Lou Dotegay testified that she started dating Rodriguez in 1983. She said he became violent, beating her and threatening to kill her “like I killed my children’s mother.”
She said she never called police because he threatened to hurt her children. “I didn’t want to be another Patty,” she said, adding that she later left him.
Another witness, Richard Brady, testified that after he heard Rodriguez, who was in the Holding Center cell next to his, talking in the middle of the night last winter, he asked him the next day if he was OK.
“He told me he was going through something with his old lady and couldn’t get to sleep,” the witness said.
The following day, Rodriguez asked Brady what he had heard, and Brady said he hadn’t heard anything. He said Rodriguez told him not to talk to anybody about him.
On Feb. 14, Brady said Rodriguez again asked him what he had heard that night, and he eventually told him.
Rodriguez asked him if he knew who Patty was and then told him she was his ex-wife, the mother of his children, and the woman he was accused of killing.
Brady testified Rodriguez told him that he and his wife had fought frequently and that she was bipolar and would occasionally snap. He also accused her of lying and cheating on him.
After the couple split up, Rodriguez told Brady, he took care of her and their children financially but felt he was also supporting her boyfriend.
One night, Rodriguez said, he and his estranged wife were in a bar talking about being a family again. Later, at another location, he tried to kiss her but stopped when she snapped and told him she wanted to leave.
Rodriguez told her he wanted his money back, because of a promise at Christmas that she was going to pay him back for every day she lied.
He pulled out a knife, and she asked him if he was going to stab her again. He lost his temper and attacked.
Brady said Rodriguez told him that prosecutors didn’t have a case against him, just some DNA on a coat that he left on the ground and then came back to retrieve. Rodriguez said he hid the knife in a fence post and later recovered it.
Rodriguez didn’t tell Brady where the attack occurred.
A few days after talking with Rodriguez, Brady said, he wrote a statement about what Rodriguez had told him and gave it to his attorney with the hope that it would get him a reduction in his prison sentence for violating his parole and crashing his car.
The attorney gave the letter to the state Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting Rodriguez, and Assistant Attorney General Diane M. LaVallee interviewed him.
Brady acknowledged he did not receive a sentence reduction or any other benefit, only a subpoena. He said he was testifying not only because he was subpoenaed but also because he wanted to tell the truth about what Rodriguez told him.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Paul J. Cambria, Brady admitted that he has a criminal history of lying to obtain a benefit. His six felony convictions include grand larceny for passing counterfeit checks, scheming to defraud and forgery.
Another witness, Carlos Guerra, testified that on the morning Patricia Rodriguez’s body was found, he and his brother Neni, who died in 2007, drove to a dumpster in South Buffalo where his brother retrieved a plastic bag.
He said they drove to Woodlawn Beach where his brother burned some bloody shoes and clothing that were in the bag. He said the shoes looked like ones that Michael Rodriguez had worn. He said he gave State Police a statement in 2009.