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Resolved cold murder case brings warm smiles of gratitude

After a jury convicted Michael Rodriguez on Friday of killing his estranged wife 35 years ago, the victim’s diminutive, elderly mother threw her arms around State Police Senior Investigator Christopher Weber, a giant of a man.

Weber is a giant in the eyes of Patricia Scinta for his drive and compassion in seeing to it that justice was finally delivered for her daughter, whose case languished for decades in an evidence locker and file cabinet at the Lackawanna Police Station, despite periodic attempts to interest prosecutors.

“Thank you. You’re very special to me,” the teary-eyed, 82-year-old South Buffalo woman told Weber.

“You’re welcome,” said Weber, who shies away from the spotlight.

The thank-yous continued in the moments after the jury’s verdict was read aloud in Erie County Court.

Lackawanna Police Chief James L. Michel Jr. said he was thrilled with the conviction. “You can finally give closure to the family members that are still here,” Michel said.

In 2009, the chief had approached the State Police asking if they would perform a cold case review of the slaying in which Patricia Rodriguez had been stabbed 108 times on Good Friday – April 13, 1979. Her body was found on top of a grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna.

After reviewing the case files and the evidence, Weber was assigned to reopen the investigation.

“When a case is this old, you are never sure, but Investigator Weber felt it was a case worth taking, and I was pleased he took the case,” Michel said.

Capt. Steven A. Nigrelli of the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation marveled at Weber’s commitment and drive in solving the case.

“Once Chris looked at the case files, met Patty’s mom, I knew there was no way he was going to stop until he did bring Patty’s killer to justice,” Nigrelli said.

Michel also offered thanks to the State Attorney General’s Office for taking the case, in particular, lead prosecutor Assistant Attorney General Diane M. LaVallee; the Erie County Central Police Services Forensic Crime Laboratory; and the lab’s director, Dr. John P. Simich.