After more than 30 years, justice for 17-year-old Massachusetts girl shot to death

Associated Press

Published: 08-17-2023 10:45 AM

WOBURN, Mass. (AP) — It took more than three decades, but the 1991 death of a 17-year-old Massachusetts girl found shot in the head on the fire escape of her foster family’s home has come to a close with the conviction of a Georgia man.

Rodney Daniels, 50, was found guilty on Wednesday in Middlesex Superior Court of first-degree murder in the slaying of Patricia Moreno in Malden on July 20, 1991, according to the office of Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan.

Daniels at the time dated the oldest daughter of Moreno’s foster mother and was staying in the home on the night of the killing, authorities said. Although the original investigation found that Daniels had been in possession of multiple handguns around the time of the killing and had “engaged in threatening behavior toward the victim,” he was not charged.

He was arrested at his South Fulton, Georgia home in September 2021 based on new information collected by the district attorney’s cold case unit.

“When a family loses a loved one in a homicide, even the passage of time never fully heals that wound,” Ryan said in a statement. “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.”

As part of its investigation, the cold case unit interviewed a man who lived on a lower floor of the building who said on the night of the slaying he saw a young woman on the fire escape struggling to breathe with a man fitting Daniels’ description standing over her, who then went back into the apartment.

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Investigators also developed new information that a now-deceased woman who in 1991 had lied to police to protect Daniels later admitted to friends and family members that he had killed Moreno and disposed of the gun.

“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,” Ryan said.

Moreno was found by police and emergency medical personnel on the building’s third-floor fire escape still breathing with a single gunshot wound to the head.

She was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she died.

Daniels told police he was sleeping in an armchair in the living room when he was awakened by the sound of two gunshots, and found Moreno on the fire escape.

He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

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