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Man Convicted in 1991 Cold Case Killing of Teen Found Fatally Shot on Fire Escape in Massachusetts
New eyewitness statements implicated Rodney Daniels in the murder of 17-year-old Patricia Moreno.
A man has been convicted in the murder of a teenager whose body was mysteriously discovered on a Massachusetts fire escape more than 30 years ago.
Rodney Daniels, 50, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of 17-year-old Patricia “Tricia” Moreno, who was found shot in the head on a Malden fire escape in 1991, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office announced on August 16.
The conviction was handed down following six days of trial proceedings.
“When a family loses a loved one in a homicide, even the passage of time never fully heals that wound,” Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said in a prepared statement.
“That is especially true when they do not have answers about what happened and no one has been held accountable," Ryan added. "Those who knew and loved Tricia have been waiting over three decades for answers.”
Who is Patricia Moreno?
On July 20, 1991, Patricia Moreno was found suffering from a gunshot wound to her head on the third-floor fire escape of her foster family’s home in Malden, Massachusetts. The teen, who was found to be barely breathing, was transported to a hospital where she later died, prosecutors said.
No weapons, or shell casings were found at the scene, nor could detectives ascertain any signs of forced entry, according to the district attorney's office. An autopsy revealed, however, that the teen had been shot with a .38 caliber weapon.
Moreno was last seen alive smoking a cigarette on the fire escape in the early morning hours, according to The Boston Herald.
Who is Rodney Daniels?
Daniels — the man convicted in Moreno's 1991 murder more than three decades later — was in a romantic relationship with the oldest daughter of Moreno’s foster mom, according to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office. Daniels was staying at the home at the time of the teen’s slaying.
He, along with other family members, told investigators he’d heard gunshots but never saw a shooter. Daniels claimed to be sleeping in an armchair at the time of the deadly shooting. Daniels owned several firearms at the time of murder, according to prosecutors, and had "engaged in threatening behavior toward the victim.” However, he wasn't charged with Moreno’s murder until 30 years later.
In 2020, cold case detectives began re-investigating Moreno’s murder. Investigators would first return to the crime scene and reconstruct the slain teen’s position on the third-floor fire escape.
“Based on the position of the entry wound and the downward trajectory of the bullet, the path of the bullet was consistent with having been fired by an individual standing in the area of the doorway to the apartment, where the victim had resided with her foster family, and where Daniels had been staying that evening,” prosecutors said in a press release.
Prosecutors also tracked down and re-interviewed case witnesses. One eyewitness in particular, who had spent some time out of the country and had been out of touch with investigators, would ultimately provide damning details to police that would secure Daniels’ arrest.
The witness, who lived on the second floor of the building where Moreno was killed, told law enforcement he’d been awoken from his sleep by a loud disturbance on the night of the teen’s murder. The witness told detectives that when they peered out of their window, they could see Moreno “struggling to breathe with a male standing over her.” The individual claimed he saw the assailant later retreat into the foster family’s apartment. The description they provided matched Daniels, authorities said.
Most damning of all, an alibi witness who had originally shielded Daniels from law enforcement scrutiny in 1991, came forward to her family and friends and confessed that Daniels had slain Moreno. That witness, who has since died, also told her loved ones that Daniels had hidden the murder weapon inside of an armchair. She admitted she lied to police and a grand jury in 1991. The woman’s relatives also disclosed to police that despite the passage of time, she’d remained hesitant to come forward out of fear of being prosecuted herself for the cover-up.
“The team that worked in this case was not deterred by the passage of time and used every tool at their disposal to root out new information critical to this successful prosecution,” District Attorney Ryan said.
Daniels was ultimately arrested in September of 2021 at his house in South Fulton, Georgia.