Man convicted of DC killing pleads not guilty in wife’s 1989 Virginia murder

Police search for the remains of Pamela Butler along I-95 in Stafford County, Virginia. Inset is an image of Marta Haydee Rodriguez, who disappeared in 1989, and whose remains were found in the same area. Police believe the two cases are connected. (Credit: NBC Washington/Arlington County police)
Jose Angel Rodriguez-Cruz, already serving 12 years in prison for the 2009 murder of his girlfriend in D.C., has entered a plea of not guilty in a Stafford County, Virginia, circuit court for the murder of his estranged wife, who disappeared 20 years ago.

Rodriguez-Cruz is charged with first-degree murder and disposing the dead body of Marta Haydee Rodriguez, who was 28 years old when she vanished from Arlington, Virginia, in 1989. Her remains were discovered in 1991 in the median of Interstate 95 in Stafford County, but were identified by DNA testing in 2018.

Sitting in the courtroom when Rodriguez-Cruz entered was Derrick Butler, the brother of Pamela Butler, who was killed in the basement of her home.

Rodriguez-Cruz admitted to killing Pamela Butler, but has denied harming Haydee Rodriguez.

“I don’t think he looked at me at all,” Derrick Butler said outside the Stafford courthouse. “I’m sure he saw me, but he looked away, which is the same thing he did in D.C.,” when Rodriguez-Cruz pleaded guilty in 2017.

Public defender Brenda Mallinak told Judge Michael Levy that she had informed Rodriguez-Cruz of the penalties he faces — up to life in prison. Rodriguez-Cruz answered quietly in the affirmative when asked if he understood the charges against him and his legal options.

Derrick Butler was instrumental in seeking charges in Stafford County, in part because Rodriguez-Cruz’s 12-year federal sentence ends in 10 years — “if he serves the entire sentence,” Derrick Butler added.

He was not surprised that Rodriguez-Cruz — through his lawyer — entered a not guilty plea.

“I don’t see where he has any real incentive at this point to take a plea bargain or plead guilty,” Derrick Butler said. “If we go through the process and he wins, he comes out [of prison], or if he loses, he’s already doing time.”

Derrick Butler said he remains in touch with Haydee Rodriguez’s grown son, and was glad to sit-in for her child: “I want Jose to know that Marta does have somebody fighting for her.”

The judge set a two-week jury trial, beginning June 10.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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