The final chapter to a 39-year-old case closed Wednesday.
Abraham Cruz Jr., now 58, was found guilty on all nine counts, including six murder charges, following a three-day trial this week.
After about four hours of deliberation, the Adams County jury found Cruz guilty of two counts each of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and third-degree murder in the shooting deaths of two Adams County women on Aug. 30, 1980.
The jury, made up of eight men and four women, also rendered a guilty verdict on charges of criminal conspiracy in engaging in criminal homicide, burglary, and arson.
When the jury foreperson read the verdict, Cruz’s outburst was difficult to hear in the packed courtroom.
“He said, ‘I didn’t murder anybody,’” Cruz’s court-appointed defense attorney Suzanne Sennett Smith clarified after the proceeding.
When exiting the courtroom, Cruz shouted again in the direction of the victims’ relatives.
“He said, ‘I didn’t do anything to your family,’” Smith clarified.
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, Cruz’s uncle, prosecutors said.
Cruz was the last of four co-defendants to face charges in the case. He was charged in 2015.
Last June, Cruz was found able to stand trial after spending about a year in a state hospital. Adams County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas Campbell indicated Cruz’s competency had been restored.
“We think justice has finally been done,” Adams County District Attorney Brian Sinnett said after court. First Assistant District Attorney Roy Keefer also assisted at trial.
The prosecution is “appreciative” of the jury’s verdict, Sinnett said, noting the four hours of deliberation was not “an inordinate amount of time” when looking at the evidence in the case.
Sinnett has never prosecuted a case as old as Cruz’s, saying it may be among the oldest to go to trial in central Pennsylvania, he said.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Scott Denisch, who filed the charges against Cruz, has been working on this case for a decade. He also made two trips to Puerto Rico as part of the investigation, he said.
“I’m happy for the family and the victims,” Denisch said after court. “The family can put this behind them.”
Denisch said he believes the jury rendered “the proper verdict.”
Court-appointed defense attorney Dawn Cutaia worked with Smith to represent Cruz during trial.
“Obviously, we were disappointed with the verdict,” Cutaia said.
Cutaia said they appreciated how jurors took their roles seriously, taking their time when coming to a verdict.
There was “a lot” for jurors to consider in Cruz’s case, Smith said.
“We are not going to win every case. It was a difficult case,” Cutaia said.
Smith also noted how courthouse staff was “exceptional” throughout the three-day trial.
During trial, testimony indicated Cruz, Erasmo Cruz, Ruperto Garcia and Adalberto Andujar drove to the Patterson home around 2 a.m. on Aug. 30, 1980.
Andujar (also known as Cheepo) is deceased, according to prosecutors.
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.
Erasmo and Garcia testified for the prosecution during the trial, saying Cruz was involved in the 1980 killings. Erasmo, in his testimony, went as far as to say Cruz shot the victims.
Cruz is facing the steepest sentence out of all the co-defendants.
Cruz will face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without a chance for parole on the first-degree and second-degree murder charges, according to Sinnett. The prosecution withdrew its intention to seek the death penalty against Cruz on Dec. 12, court documents indicated.
Third-degree murder, criminal conspiracy in engaging in criminal homicide, burglary, and arson, all first-degree felonies, have a maximum potential sentence of 20 years each, Sinnett 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.
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.
Cruz’s sentencing is set for Aug. 22, according to court officials. He remains in Adams County Prison without bail, according to court records.