Estranged husband indicted for murder in 1989 disappearance of Va. woman

In December 2017, Derrick Butler watched as D.C. police searched near I-95 in Stafford County for the remains of his sister, Pamela, who was murdered in 2009. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Jose Rodriguez-Cruz, who is currently serving 12 years in prison for the 2009 murder of girlfriend Pamela Butler in Washington, D.C., has been indicted in Stafford County, Virginia for the murder of his estranged wife, Marta Haydee Rodriguez, who vanished in 1989.

Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen announced Friday that a county grand jury indicted Rodriguez-Cruz for first-degree murder and concealing a dead body on Oct. 7. The felony indictments were unsealed this week.

“These indictments indicate that law enforcement officials and the Stafford commonwealth’s attorney’s office have developed sufficient probable cause to believe that Marta Rodriguez was murdered in 1989 by her estranged husband, Jose Rodriguez-Cruz,” Olsen said.

Marta Rodriguez was 28 years old when she disappeared from Arlington, Virginia, in 1989. Her remains were found in 1991 in the median of Interstate 95 in Stafford County, Virginia, but were only identified by DNA testing in 2018.

Olsen explained the case had gone cold until 2017, when Arlington County detectives began pursuing additional leads. D.C. investigators and Virginia State Police also were involved. Once the remains were identified as those of Rodriguez, the case became an active homicide investigation, rather than a missing persons case.

The indictment came as a relief to Pamela Butler’s brother, Derrick Butler, who’s been pushing to see justice served.

“I do know this: that I had to do something about it, because if that guy gets back out on the streets, all of the women out here are going to be in trouble,” he said. “A life sentence would be justice for us.”

Of Derrick Butler, Olsen said, “His attempts to keep this case in the media has helped the public become aware of this case.”

Olsen added that if they can get a conviction, “I think the family of Pam Butler will also get another measure of justice beyond what they’ve gotten from the prosecution in Washington, D.C.”

Rodriguez-Cruz is currently serving his sentence at a facility in West Virginia. Olsen said his office would be taking steps in the coming months to have Rodriguez-Cruz returned to Virginia to face trial. Olsen said a plea deal had not been discussed.

Olsen added that while trying a 30-year-old case has its challenges, such as identifying witnesses, “most of those obstacles, we feel, have been overcome.”

“I think it’s important to know that 30 years later, justice can be delivered,” he added.

Rodriguez-Cruz confessed to killing Butler in the basement of her D.C. home in 2009. Police used cadaver-sniffing dogs in December 2017 to try to find her body along the I-95 Express Lanes between Quantico and Garrisonville Road, which is where Rodriguez-Cruz said he buried her.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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