You never say the word “no” to the Cruz men when told to do something, Ruperto Garcia testified Monday during the trial against Abraham Cruz Jr.
Abraham Cruz, now 58, was charged in August 2015 with two counts each of first-degree murder and second-degree murder, and one count of third-degree murder in the shooting deaths of two women on Aug. 30, 1980. He also faces charges of arson and burglary.
Abraham and Erasmo Cruz approached Garcia, who was 15 years old at the time, and Adalberto Andujar (also known as Cheepo), and took them to an apartment to drink Thunderbird wine and take pills on Aug. 30, 1980, Garcia testified.
Garcia said the Cruz men would not let him go home.
“You don’t say ‘no’ to them,” he said.
Nearly 39 years later, Garcia sat on the witness stand Monday and testified that Abraham was present during the shooting deaths of two women in Adams County.
On Aug. 30, 1980, Nancy Patterson, 41, and her daughter Deborah Patterson, 17, were fatally shot while trying to escape their firebombed home in Freedom Township in the southern part of the county. Deborah was the ex-girlfriend of Erasmo, Abraham’s uncle, prosecutors said.
Garcia became emotional at times while testifying Monday, recalling the events of that day.
Garcia lived across the hall from Abraham’s uncle Erasmo in apartments in Harrisburg.
When asked if he saw Abraham and Erasmo that day, Garcia said “unfortunately.”
Erasmo borrowed another girlfriend’s car to ride in, but Garcia did not know where it was heading since he was crouched down on the floor behind the driver seat with Andujar on the other side, according to testimony.
“To this day, I don’t know where,” he said, noting he also fell asleep on the drive.
Garcia recalled smelling gas that was put inside of beer bottles – bigger than the typical 12-ounced size, he said.
Abraham carried the beer bottles filled with gas, while Erasmo had “a long gun,” according to Garcia. Abraham and Erasmo were ahead of him and Andujar on a dirt road, Garcia testified.
When walking toward the property along Middle Creek Road, Garcia said he heard a “boom” from behind the structure.
Garcia remembered seeing sparkling lights that he knows now to be fire coming from the residence, he said.
Abraham is alleged to have made Garcia throw one of the gas-filled bottles after setting it afire, according to testimony. Garcia indicated he deliberately threw it to miss the residence, landing in the grass.
Garcia kept staring toward Abraham while testifying.
“I don’t think he hears me,” Garcia said at one point.
When Abraham and Erasmo ran inside the house, Garcia and Andujar left for the car, according to testimony.
While running, Garcia heard: “Boom! Boom! Boom!” The sounds were heard two to three times, he said.
Garcia said he kneeled and cried at the scene, and Andujar told him to stop crying.
Abraham returned with the gun and told the co-defendants to take off their clothes, to which they complied, according to Garcia.
Erasmo threatened to kill Garcia’s family if he told anyone what happened, he said.
Garcia was sentenced to time served in March 2014 on a burglary charge because of his cooperation with law enforcement and prosecutors, according to Gettysburg Times articles. Garcia’s full sentence was 11-and-a-half to 23 months of partial confinement in the Adams County Prison, of which he has already served 364 days, making him eligible for parole. Andujar, the fourth co-defendant, is deceased, according to prosecutors.
“It destroyed my dreams. I had dreams, too,” Garcia said.
On cross-examination, Garcia was clear on his intentions to be in court Monday.
“They didn’t pay me or anything,” Garcia continued. “I’m here on my own for justice.”
During cross-examination by the defense, Garcia admitted he did not see anyone get shot with the gun.
Abraham’s ex-girlfriend Wanda Garrison also testified Monday.
Abraham is alleged to have told Garrison he killed Deborah Patterson and how he did it, according to her testimony.
On that night, Abraham’s ski mask kept getting in the way when looking under a car for Deborah, Garrison recalled him saying.
Garrison, who was visibly shaking, said Abraham admitted to putting a gun into Deborah’s mouth and blowing her “brains out.”
On cross-examination, Garrison did indicate Abraham was “intoxicated” when he told her this about a year into their romantic relationship.
When called to testify a second time, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Scott Denisch confirmed Garcia’s recollection of parking on U.S. Route 15, climbing up a bank, and going through trees and a fence would be accurate to get to the Middle Creek residence.
Adams County District Attorney Brian Sinnett and First Assistant District Attorney Roy Keefer were the prosecutors on the case, while court-appointed defense attorneys Suzanne Sennett Smith and Dawn Cutaia represented Abraham during proceedings Monday.
In opening statements, Keefer noted 39 years “is a long time to wait for justice.” The family had no idea their lives would change when they went to bed that night, according to Keefer.
Cutaia asked the Adams County jury of nine men and five women to “not be swayed by emotion.”
“Your job is to look at the facts, just the facts, and not be swayed,” she said.
Abraham’s trial will continue into Tuesday with testimony from Erasmo, a co-defendant in the case, court officials said.
In February 2014, Erasmo pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree murder and was sentenced to serve 16 to 40 years in state prison for the deaths of his ex-girlfriend Deborah Patterson and her mother Nancy Patterson, according to Gettysburg Times archives.
The Cruz men, Garcia and Andujar drove to the Patterson home around 2 a.m. on Aug. 30, 1980, according to police.
Garcia previously told police he and Andujar believed they were only going to commit a burglary. After a few minutes, Molotov cocktails were thrown into the home and it caught fire, according to court documents.
Everyone inside attempted to escape. One person was shot and lived, and two others escaped injury.