Two Washington, D.C., women who vanished 20 years apart have connections that tie them to one man and the Interstate 95 median in Stafford County, where their bodies were found.
The brother of one of those women continued his quest for justice Wednesday.
Derrick Butler, a 56-year-old Maryland resident, visited Stafford County prosecutors Wednesday to push for charges in the death of Marta Haydee–Rodriguez, who vanished from D.C. in 1989.
His sister, Pamela Butler, was 47 when she vanished from her home in D.C. on Feb. 12, 2009. Her former boyfriend, Jose Rodriguez–Cruz, confessed in October 2017 to killing Butler in her house.
Rodriguez–Cruz struck a deal with authorities in exchange for leading police to her remains. In return, he got a 12-year prison sentence for second-degree murder.
Based on information Rodriguez–Cruz provided, Metropolitan Police Department officers in December 2017 searched the express lanes area in Garrisonville in hopes of finding Butler’s remains.
Work on the toll lanes, which opened in 2015, tore up the earth in the former median where Butler was apparently dumped. Her remains weren’t found, although cadaver dogs reportedly “hit” in several areas, leaving authorities convinced Butler’s body had been left there.
At the time, according to a story that aired on NBC’s “Dateline” last week, detectives knew the first wife of Rodriquez–Cruz also had vanished. They also had identified her remains, in the median of I–95 about one mile from where Butler’s body was left two decades later. News of the discovery became public in June.
The remains of Haydee–Rodriguez were discovered in 1991, but were not identified at that time. Her case was one of three involving unidentified bodies found in the interstate’s median in Stafford that received renewed focus in 2016, when the FBI used digital technology to create images of their facial likenesses.
Haydee–Rodriguez was 28 when she disappeared, just days before she was set to testify in a trial against her husband, who had been charged with abducting her, according to news reports. The charges were dismissed after she failed to appear for the trial.
According to a 2017 Washington Post story, during a D.C. Superior Court hearing, authorities described Rodriguez–Cruz as a man with a pattern of violence against women and connected him to his first wife’s disappearance.
D.C. homicide detective Michael Fulton testified that a witness told detectives he had found a letter in which Rodriguez–Cruz wrote that he was “responsible” for his wife’s disappearance, something he told detectives around the time Haydee–Rodriguez went missing. According to the “Dateline” story, that witness was Rodriguez–Cruz’s son from his second marriage, which also was reportedly a violent relationship.
While he was initially frustrated with the D.C. investigation into his sister’s murder, Butler now feels comfortable with how it was handled. But he is concerned that Haylee–Rodriguez’s case would fade away.
Since her remains were found in Stafford, county authorities are handling the case.
“Good meeting,” Butler said of his talk with county prosecutors. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Stafford prosecutor Geoge Elsasser said state police brought him the 30-year-old cold case and asked him to evaluate it. “We are in the process of doing that,” he said.
Butler is bothered that Haylee–Rodriguez’s case languished for so long without anyone looking into it.
One twist that made finding Haylee–Rodriguez more difficult: Rodgriguez–Cruz had passed along her identifying documents to his second wife’s sister to make it appear Haylee–Rodriguez was still alive in another state, a development that was discovered by D.C. detective Fulton, according to the “Dateline” story.
Butler believes the case would have moved along faster if the victim had been white instead of a person of color.
“That is a major issue to it,” he said, wondering why no one started searching for her when she vanished just prior to her husband’s court date.
But he’s focused on justice.
“It’s more to it than my sister,” Butler said. “This man does not deserve to be on the streets. ... If he gets out, he’s gonna do the same thing, because nothing’s been done.”