A man accused of strangling, beating and stabbing his mother in her West Seneca apartment last May was convicted Friday of second-degree murder.
A jury returned the verdict against Primitivo Cruz in the fatal attack on Carol Quinn, who prosecutors said had been trying to get her alcoholic, unemployed son to move out of her Burch Avenue apartment.
The verdict came more than four months after another jury had deadlocked 11-1 for conviction on its fourth day of deliberations, leading to a mistrial and this month’s retrial.
This jury deliberated only about three hours.
Cruz, 45, faces at least 15 years to life in prison and at most 25 years to life when he is sentenced July 16 by State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang.
The defendant, who had not testified at his first trial, took the stand at his retrial, denying that he had killed his 77-year-old mother on May 3, 2013, in her living room where police found her body the next day under an overturned recliner.
Quinn was killed about a week after police charged her son with harassment for pushing her into a door during an argument over her demand that he move out, prosecutors said.
The morning of the slaying, Quinn called the West Seneca Town Court clerk and asked to drop an order of protection a judge had signed against Cruz after the pushing incident but was told she couldn’t do it over the phone.
The clerk testified that she heard Quinn relay that information to a man whose voice the clerk could hear in the background.
Homicide prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable told the jury in her summation that Cruz attacked his mother sometime after that call.
She said he strangled Quinn, breaking the bones in her neck; beat her with an angel figurine lamp from a table next to her recliner, breaking her nose and causing brain bleeding; and stabbed her multiple times in the neck before slashing her lower back.
The prosecutor said Quinn fought back, citing the defensive wounds she suffered as she sat in her recliner.
Curtin Gable said Cruz later turned over the recliner so he couldn’t see his mother’s body, which he left under the chair.
She said he spent the rest of the day cleaning up the crime scene and trying to cover up what he had done.
A neighbor testified that she saw a man, whom she could not identify, carrying garbage bags that afternoon on the street and putting them on a couch left in the curbside trash. She said she saw him then go back to the victim’s apartment.
The prosecutor said the bags contained Cruz’s socks, the blood-stained wooden base of the lamp along with pieces of the angel figurine, and the victim’s blood-stained purse strap.
The blood was the victim’s and was mixed with DNA consistent with the defendant’s, she said.
She said DNA consistent with Cruz’s was found on a knife, with Quinn’s blood on it, under dirty dishes in the sink.
After the attack, Cruz got a call from a local friend of his mother who asked to talk to her, the prosecutor said. He told her his mother was getting ready for a trip to Pennsylvania to visit another friend and that she should call back.
When she called back, Cruz said her Pennsylvania friend’s husband had already picked her up, Curtin Gable said. The caller was surprised because the husband had died more than four years ago, so she called West Seneca police and asked them to check on Quinn.
Police got no response when they arrived at the locked apartment, the prosecutor said, even though Cruz was in the apartment with his mother’s body.
The next day, the Pennsylvania friend called the apartment at around 3 p.m., and Cruz told her Quinn was in the bathroom and would call her back.
When Quinn didn’t return the call, the friend called West Seneca police to check on her.
Police responded at 3:28 p.m., according to the prosecutor, and got no response. But an officer found an unlocked window and climbed into the apartment where he found the body.
Meanwhile, Cruz, who had been drinking, approached another officer in the parking lot and asked what was going on.
He was taken to the police station and questioned, denying that he killed his mother and saying he hadn’t seen her for several days. He was released after he gave police a sample of his DNA and his clothes.
He turned himself in May 7 after learning that police were looking for him. He was charged with murder and held without bail.
His attorney, Frank Bogulski, said he will appeal the conviction after sentencing.
The case was prosecuted by Curtin Gable and Assistant District Attorney Danielle Soluri.