Dramatic testimony given in cold case murder trial

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) –  A Lackawanna man appeared in court Monday morning; he is accused of brutally killing his estranged wife Patricia 35 years ago by stabbing her 108 times. Her body was found in a cemetery on Good Friday morning in 1979. The victim was 21 years old, and a mother.

Prosecutors presented powerful testimony in 60-year-old Michael Rodriguez’s murder trial Monday, which moved many observers in the courtroom to tears. There were five witnesses that testified on Monday, including two of Rodriquez’s ex-girlfriends.

Rodriguez, who is charged with murder, looked at one of his ex-girlfriends in the eye when she testified. She told the courtroom Michael told her, “I killed Patty in the cemetery.”

The woman who lived with Michael Rodriguez in 1979, was carrying his child and in love with him at the time, the ex- told jurors. She was 19-year-old old at the time, and testified that she has been living a “nightmare” for the past 35 years since the murder. When asked by prosecutors why she lied to police in the past she said it was because she said Rodriguez threatened to kill her.

She said the defendant admitted to her that he killed his ex-wife. She said Rodriguez admitted to her, his estranged wife’s last words were, “Why Mike, why?”

The ex-girlfriend told jurors the defendant said he killed Patricia because she made him mad. The ex-girlfriend said she smelled perfume on Rodriguez later that night that wasn’t hers.

She told jurors she helped clean up blood in the bathroom and a bloody leather jacket in 1979. She said the defendant told her he threw the knife into a nearby river.

When the woman tried to break things off with the defendant she said he got violent. Eventually she said her mother flew her to Virginia to get away from him. She says she saw him again when she let him see his son.

The woman has since gotten married and her and the defendant’s son has a child of his own and serves in the military overseas.

The ex-girlfriend says she hired attorney Joel Daniels in 2009 and got the cold case re-opened. She said becoming more religious made her want to admit her sins. It also happened to be the 30th anniversary of the victim’s death. The prosecution asked the witness if the reason she is testifying now is because she knew the statute of limitations had run out and she couldn’t be prosecuted personally and she said she didn’t know until a lawyer told her.

The defense cross examined the ex-girlfriend Monday, to try and hurt her credibility. The defense pointed out that she has lied under oath before. The ex-girlfriend said she lied in the past because she did what the defendant told her to do due to fear.

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