WASHINGTON - A man long suspected of killing D.C. woman Pamela Butler and hiding her body for more than eight years finally has admitted he was involved in the crime.
Jose Rodriguez-Cruz pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and promised to show police where the EPA computer specialist is buried. In return, he will only have to serve 12 years in prison.
There were many tears in the courtroom on Friday as Rodriguez-Cruz finally admitted what Butler's family had suspected all along - that he killed her inside the house on 4th Street, NW, and then under the cover of darkness and out of view of Butler's many surveillance cameras, he slipped her body out a window and put her in the ground.
Thelma and Derrick Butler, Pamela's mother and brother, sat in the courtroom and listened as prosecutor Deborah Sines read the evidence against Rodriguez-Cruz. The Butlers then stood in the well of the court and confronted Butler's ex-boyfriend, letting him know how they felt after all these years.
"It felt very good," said Thelma. "I felt a little relief coming in now through speaking it instead of holding it in all these years."
Derrick Butler told the judge he did not care if Rodriguez-Cruz received no prison time at all as long as he said where her sister's body is located.
"It was important to the family because if she is laying out somewhere, she is still missing to us," he said. "We want to bring her home and know exactly where she is."
"He has to make a good faith best effort, so if we are misled and he doesn't help, then we are back where we started again," said Sines.
Prosecutors Sines and Glenn Kirschner said the process to recover the body is already underway.
"2009 was a long time ago and terrain changes," said Sines. "We'll see."
From the start, Derrick and his family thought Pamela had been murdered in the house and her body taken out of a first-floor window. It is something Derrick demonstrated to FOX 5 inside the house in the weeks after her disappearance.
On Friday, Rodriguez-Cruz admitted that is exactly what happened.
But it wasn't until Detective Michael Fulton took over the case in January of this year that the puzzle pieces finally fell into place.
"I don't think there was a dry eye in that courtroom when Jose took responsibility and Pam's mom got to hear what happened and get some answers," said Fulton. "For that matter, it was very satisfying."
Derrick has never stopped looking for his sister. Hopefully in the next few days, that search will come to an end.
The 12-year sentence for second-degree murder may not sound like much, but Kirschner pointed it that it is still within the sentencing guidelines.
Also, Arlington police say they are still actively investigating the disappearance of Rodriguez-Cruz's first wife, Marta, who vanished in 1989.