State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said this afternoon that modern-day DNA evidence techniques and dogged pursuit by the State Police helped lead to today’s indictment of Michael Rodriguez in the 1979 murder of his estranged wife.
In Albany after an event at his Capitol office, Schneiderman said he had heard the mother of the murder victim say her prayers had been answered when Rodriquez was arrested.
“Whenever you can answer a mother’s prayers, it’s a good day,’’ Schneiderman said.
The attorney general said the State Police brought the case to his office.
“It’s a great example of good collaborative work by prosecutors and investigators,’’ he said.
Schneiderman declined to provide details about the DNA evidence used to help crack the case.
“But I think it’s fair to say there are a lot of things we can do with DNA now that we couldn’t do in 1979,’’ the attorney general said.
“The core of this is just good police work, good investigation, good work by our prosecutors. These are tough cases to bring, and we’re glad to provide some justice for this family,’’ he added.
Michael Rodriguez, 59, was arrested at about 6 a.m. today at his Pries Avenue home by State Police and Lackawanna police along with a state attorney general investigator. He was charged with murder in the stabbing death of his wife in a Lackawanna cemetery in 1979.
State Police investigators reopened the long unsolved murder case of Patti Rodriguez, 21, at the request of Lackawanna Police Chief James Michel.
Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III was criticized last year for declining to press charges following the introduction of what some police sources called new evidence. The district attorney noted at the time that neither he nor three predecessors ever believed enough evidence was available for a successful prosecution.
Sedita issued a statement today indicating that a joint decision among several investigating and prosecuting agencies was made several months ago to assign the case to the Attorney General’s Office.
“I applaud the efforts of both the New York State Police and the New York State Attorney General’s Office,” he said. “Whether it is the United States Attorney’s Office, the New York State Attorney General’s Office or the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, at the end of the day, which agency prosecutes the case is not nearly as important as that the defendant is brought to justice.”