1st Stafford County appearance for man charged in estranged wife’s 1989 murder

Jose Angel Rodriguez-Cruz’s estranged wife disappeared from Arlington, Virginia, more than 20 years ago. On Friday, he made his first appearance in a Stafford County courtroom, charged with first-degree murder.

In a video appearance from Rappahannock Regional Jail, where Rodriguez-Cruz was transferred on Wednesday, his only words were an acknowledgment of his identity in response to a question from Circuit Court Judge Michael Levy.

Rodriguez-Cruz, who has been serving 12 years in prison for the 2009 murder of girlfriend Pamela Butler in D.C., was indicted last year in the disappearance of Marta Haydee Rodriguez, his estranged wife.

He is charged with two felonies in Virginia: first-degree murder and concealing a dead body. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison in the commonwealth.

Until Wednesday, Rodriguez-Cruz has been serving his sentence in the Gilmer Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security facility in West Virginia.

The judge ordered Rodriguez-Cruz held until arraignment, at 9 a.m. on March 9.

As he stood in his orange jumpsuit, hands clasped in front of him, Rodriguez-Cruz was told he qualified for a public defender and that he would be appointed one.

Marta Haydee Rodriguez was 28 years old at the time she disappeared from Arlington. Her remains were discovered in 1991 in the median of Interstate 95 in Stafford County but were only identified by DNA testing in 2018.

Though Rodriguez-Cruz admitted to killing Butler in the basement of her D.C. home, he has denied killing Haydee Rodriguez. The location he described as to where he disposed of Butler’s body was nearby to where Haydee Rodriguez’s remains were found.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein reported from Stafford, Virginia.

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