Pleas entered in 1980 Adams County murders

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Erasmo Cruz

The suspect in a 34 year-old murder case in Adams County will serve 16 to 40 years in prison. Erasmo Cruz entered two guilty pleas on two counts of third degree murder for the 1980 murders of Debra and Nancy Patterson in a deal with Adams County District Attorney Shawn Wagner. Cruz will not be eligible for parole until he is 72 years old.

Debra Patterson and her mother, Nancy Patterson, were killed on August 30, 1980 in Freedom Township. Debra, 17 years-old at the time of her death, was shot in the face with a shotgun and Nancy was shot in the back. Keith Patterson, Debra’s brother and Nancy’s son was charged with their murders in 1980. He was acquitted of all charges in his 1981 trial. State Police re-opened the investigation in 2008.

Cruz was Debra Patterson’s ex-boyfriend. Investigators say they discovered a history of domestic violence and threats made by Cruz. Evidence and statements made by former friends and associates led them to believe Erasmo Cruz was responsible for the brutal murders. He was tracked down and arrested in Puerto Rico in August 2012.

Wagner says the plea was offered to spare the Patterson family the trauma of a trial. The Patterson family agreed with the deal and the sentence in this case. “The plea in this case provides closure to the family and ensures the safety of the community,” said Wagner.

Keith Patterson was in court for the guilty plea and sentencing today. Wagner thanked him for his cooperation wit the investigation and said he hopes Cruz conviction provides Patterson and his brothers and sisters with comfort.

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