The killer of Pamela Butler, a Washington, D.C., federal worker who disappeared before Valentine's Day in 2009, pleaded guilty in the death of his estranged wife, who disappeared in 1989.
Marta Haydee Rodriguez-Cruz disappeared from Arlington, Virginia, in 1989. Her remains were found along Interstate 95 in Stafford County in 1991 but weren't positively identified until 2018 when an Arlington detective tracked down the couple's son to get a DNA sample.
Her husband, Jose Angel Rodriguez-Cruz, previously confessed to killing Butler, who he dated for a time, and told police he buried her a few miles from where his wife's remains were discovered. Police searched for Butler's remains but determined them to be unrecoverable.
Rodriguez-Cruz, who is serving 12 years in prison for Butler's death, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in his wife's death.
“There is that phrase, ‘Justice delayed is justice denied,’ but that’s only if you never bring justice, and here we’ve brought justice to Marta Rodriguez,” Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen said.
Marta Rodriguez-Cruz told police her husband assaulted and kidnapped her, but she disappeared before she could testify against him in court.
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In court documents, he was quoted as saying, "If I can't have her, no one will."
The persistence of Butler’s brother helped bring justice in both crimes. For 11 years, Derrick Butler refused to give up in his quest to bring his sister’s killer to justice for her murder and then for Marta Rodriguez-Cruz, who he never met.
“I was extremely happy to hear about a plea deal,” he said.
“I definitely feel like I’ve done all I can do and that I know my sister would be happy, and I’m sure Marta would be happy to know someone is standing up and fighting for her,” he said.
Hansel Rodriguez said he was exposed to evil at a young age watching his abusive father.
“It’s hard not to lose faith in humanity when you’ve been exposed to that kind of thing, but this certainly helps restore it,” he said.
“I don’t have words,” he said. “I can’t thank enough people.”
Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 4. Rodriguez-Cruz faces five to 40 years in prison.
The victim’s son said he’s not sure whether he will testify or submit a victim impact statement when is father is sentenced.