on January 24, 2014 - 2:49 PM
, updated January 24, 2014 at 10:52 PM
The murder trial of a man charged in the brutal slaying of his 77-year-old mother last May in the West Seneca apartment she shared with him ended Friday when the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.
State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang declared a mistrial in the case of Primitivo Cruz after the jury said it was deadlocked on its fourth day of deliberations. The judge scheduled a new trial for May 15.
Cruz, 45, is accused of strangling, beating and stabbing Carol Quinn on May 3 in her apartment on Burch Avenue, where her body was found the next day by police who checked on her after receiving calls of concern from friends.
Cruz was questioned by officers that day after he approached them in the apartment parking lot to ask what was going on. He was arrested May 7 on a charge of second-degree murder and has been held without bail.
The fatal attack came about a week after police had arrested Cruz on a harassment charge for throwing his mother against her apartment door during an argument April 26. She called police April 27 to say she wanted her intoxicated son removed from her apartment, following her repeated attempts to get the unemployed Cruz, who witnesses said had a drinking problem, to move out.
The defense argued that the wrong person was on trial for Quinn’s murder. Defense attorney Frank M. Bogulski told the jury in his closing statement that the most likely scenario is that another resident of the apartment complex and others had confronted Quinn the night of May 3 or early May 4 about Quinn’s complaints to the landlord about the resident, described by one witness as a drug user, making too much noise.
He noted that police arrested Cruz on murder charges within 72 hours of the body being discovered and before any lab results from DNA testing were completed. Once the DNA results came back, he said they did not definitively link his client to the knife that prosecutors say was used to stab the victim and no blood was found under his nails, just dirt, when he was questioned May 4, while the DNA of another male was found on items at the scene.
Bogulski said his client had no motive to kill his mother, noting that she was going to drop the harassment charge, that she had little money and that he depended on her for a place to live.
Homicide prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable told the jury that the proof of the defendant’s guilt was overwhelming. “Primitivo Cruz, not a neighbor, not a relative, not someone else, killed his mother,” she said, rejecting defense suggestions about who committed the crime.
She said Cruz strangled Quinn, breaking the bones in her neck; beat her, breaking her nose and causing brain bleeding; and stabbed her multiple times in the neck before slashing her lower back.
Curtin Gable also cited the lies she said Cruz told Quinn’s friends when they called to talk to her May 3 and he told them that she was on her way to Pennsylvania to visit a friend whose husband had picked her up, even though the husband had died more than four years ago.