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Man convicted on all counts in 1980 slayings of woman, teen

June 5, 2019

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A man has been convicted on all counts in the killings of a mother and her teenage daughter in central Pennsylvania almost four decades ago.

Jurors in Adams County deliberated for about four hours Wednesday before convicting 58-year-old Abraham Cruz Jr. of first-, second- and third-degree murder as well as conspiracy, burglary, and arson in the August 1980 slayings.

After the verdict was read, Cruz, 58, who had maintained his composure throughout the trial, yelled “I didn’t kill nobody,” according to the (Hanover) Evening Sun.

Cruz was charged in 1985 in the slayings of 41-year-old Nancy Patterson and her 17-year-old daughter, Deborah, who were shot to death as they tried to escape the Freedom Township home after it was set afire. Two younger children, ages 16 and 9, escaped to a neighbor’s home. The woman’s husband was shot twice but survived.

Cruz took the stand in his own defense Tuesday to deny that he killed the victims, and also said he didn’t know either of them and had never been to the home, including on the night of the murders.

Cruz’s uncle, Erasmo Cruz, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in February 2014 and was sentenced to 16 to 40 years. A son of the adult victim was charged in the case but acquitted in 1981.

Defense attorney Dawn Cutaia suggested that Erasmo Cruz had a motive because the teenage victim had left him and started dating someone else. She said another prosecution witness came forward after getting into trouble on a different matter.

District Attorney Brian Sinnett defended the veracity of prosecution witnesses’ testimony, citing details they provided that he said could only have been learned at the scene. He told jurors the case was “an opportunity to see justice done” after almost 40 years.

Prosecutors earlier withdrew a motion to seek the death penalty. Abraham Cruz is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 22.

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