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Jury convicts man in cold case murder of 17-year-old girl on apartment fire escape


Rodney Daniels was convicted in the 1991 death of Patricia Moreno in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, according to prosecutors. (Picture of Moreno via the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office; screengrab of Daniels via CBS News Boston)

After waiting for more than 30 years, the family of a 17-year-old girl shot and killed in 1991 finally received justice after a man was convicted following a six-day trial.

A jury in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, found Rodney Daniels, now 50, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Patricia Moreno, who was shot to death in her foster home, District Attorney Marian Ryan announced Wednesday.

“When a family loses a loved one in a homicide, even the passage of time never fully heals that wound. That is especially true when they do not have answers about what happened and no one has been held accountable. Those who knew and loved Tricia have been waiting over three decades for answers,” Ryan said.

Just after 3 a.m. July 20, 1991, police in Malden, a city north of Boston, were called to a third-floor apartment and found Moreno on the fire escape landing suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. She was rushed to the hospital where she died.

An investigation revealed Moreno’s foster mother, her two teenage daughters and her daughter’s boyfriend, Daniels, were also inside the apartment when the shooting happened. There was no sign of forced entry. They said they heard two gunshots, but did not see a shooter. Daniels told investigators at the time that he was sleeping on in armchair in the living room when he was awakened by two gunshots. He said he walked out to the fire escape where he found Moreno. Her foster mother then called 911.

Detectives later learned that Daniels owned several handguns around the time of the murder and had “engaged in threatening behavior toward the victim in the weeks before her death,” prosecutors said. While detectives interviewed several people over the years, the case went cold.

In 2020, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit began re-examining this case. Investigators returned to the apartment and reconstructed Moreno’s position on the fire escape and determined that based on the path of her entry wound, the shooter fired the weapon from the doorway of the apartment where she lived. They also found a witness who had been out of the country for several years and lived in the apartment below Moreno’s who said he had been awakened by a loud noise and saw Moreno struggling to breathe and a man fitting Daniels’ description standing over her and running back inside the apartment.

Detectives also learned that the witness who gave an alibi for Daniels had lied to police at the time of the shooting and later told her family members that Daniels hid a gun inside an armchair after pulling the trigger. The witness, who has since died, said she was afraid to relay the information to police because she feared prosecution for a cover-up.

A warrant for Daniels’ arrest was issued and he was taken into custody at his Georgia home on Sept. 27, 2021.

Daniels, who faces a mandatory life sentence, has another court hearing scheduled for Sept. 29, the Boston Globe reported.

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