RACINE — The man accused of killing a Milwaukee mother 21 years ago was found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide on Friday.
Miguel A. Cruz, 41, was charged in the murder of 39-year-old Juanita Zdroik. Her body was found on the side of the road in Raymond in Racine County on Feb. 7, 2000.
But the case turned cold as leads did not turn up any suspects. That is until January of 2017, when detectives connected a Milwaukee double homicide to Zdroik’s murder, which happened on the same day.
A witness in the Milwaukee case emerged also as a witness in Zdroik’s murder, according to a 2020 Racine Journal Times report. Blood from one of the victims in the Milwaukee slaying was further found on Zdroik’s pants.
From there, investigators were able to narrow it down to two suspects, Cruz and another man, Elias J. Burgos. Cruz was arrested in Tampa in August of 2017.
A criminal complaint states Cruz tried to pull Zdroik out of a van while she resisted. That's when Cruz shot her in the head with the same gun he used to kill the two people in Milwaukee, according to the complaint, per the Journal Times report.
On Friday, 21 years after the murder to the month, a Racine County jury found Cruz guilty of first-degree intentional homicide. Cruz's sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 22.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling, who was a deputy during the murder and was the first at the scene, said in a statement Friday that he "could not be more proud that we finally have brought closure to her family, 21 years ago to the month."
"I will never forget, 21 years ago, that early and cold February morning call where I found a beautiful young woman brutally murdered on the side of a road," Sheriff Schmaling writes. "I pray, like all of you, that we find some comfort in knowing the person responsible for executing a mother of two young children will now spend the rest of their life in prison."