Investigator solved decades old murder case quickly

BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – Michael Rodriguez will be sentenced Friday Dec. 5th, 35 years after he killed his estranged wife, 20-year-old Patti Scinta Rodriguez. The case went cold for all those years.

Many people claimed they knew who killed the young mother, but her killer walked the streets for decades. Police and several district attorneys insisted over the years they didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute Michael Rodriguez.

“Everybody I talked to said they knew who did it, Michael did it, but nobody could ever prove it, maybe it was because they didn’t have the time, but I was given the time,” State Police cold case investigator Christopher Weber, said.

The case landed on his desk in 2009. When he opened it, he saw Patti Scinta Rodriguez, a 20 year old mother was stabbed 108 times in Lackawanna’s Holy Cross Cemetery a month before her 21st birthday in 1979.

“I was advised this case has been worked and it is probably not going anywhere,” Weber said. “There was a lot of missing stuff, supposedly missing stuff.”

Weber spent five years trying to uncover what really happened that Good Friday. But one moment early on in his investigation, he learned a surprise that he didn’t yet comprehend.

“I took it home and I would sit at home in my recliner and read it at night because I was told it was probably going to get shot down,” Weber said.

One major hangup was Donna Williams, the killer’s former girlfriend. She was in a relationship with Michael Rodriguez at the time of the murder. Police interviewed her in 1979 and lied to investigators about important evidence. 30 years later she admitted she was afraid to tell the truth because she was beaten by Rodriguez while in love with him and pregnant with his child.

“There was a time when she wanted to tell the story and people didn’t want to listen to her,” Weber said. “When she found out I wanted to interview her she came here and it was clear she had a story to tell.”

Williams told Weber she helped clean up Rodriguez’s bloody jacket and bathroom in the early morning hours after Patty was killed.

“From that point things started snowballing a little but faster,” said Weber.

Weber said he kept hearing the same thing. Lackawanna detectives and others were convinced much of the original evidence in the case was missing. Weber decided to begin his search in the most obvious place, the Lackawanna evidence room, where he realized the evidence had been under their noses for many years.

“Literally it took 35 to 40 minutes to find all this evidence that had been missing for all these years,” said Weber.

In the first round of newer DNA testing, tiny spots of the victim’s blood were found on the inside of Michael Rodriguez’s leather jacket.

But the killer’s shoes were clean. How could this be? Investigator Weber found out there were other people who took orders from Rodriguez.

Carlos Guerra said he and his older brother, who were good friends with Rodriguez, burned key pieces of evidence at Woodlawn beach.

The truth was coming out, but investigator Weber faced new challenges.

“I was told the suspect made contact with one or two people about talking to me,” Weber said. “Believe it or not there are people calling me trying to steer me away from Michael.”

Between new DNA evidence and witnesses like Donna Williams, investigator Weber knew he had a solid case. He took a different path and convinced State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office with a power point presentation to take the case. Michael Rodriguez was arrested in 2013. A year later it took a jury less than three hours to find Rodriguez guilty of murder.

Thursday News 4 will continue the story of Weber’s investigation with a first hand account from Patti Scinta Rodriguez’s mother on News 4 at 6. She said she saw her daughter’s abuse first hand.

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