ADAMS COUNTY -- An Adams County man was convicted of first-degree murder and related offenses relating to the deaths of a mother and her teenage daughter almost 40 years ago, according to the Adams County District Attorney's Office.
Abraham Cruz Jr., 58, was found guilty by an Adams County jury after four hours of deliberation, DA Brian Sinnett said.
The deaths of Nancy Lee Patterson, 41, and her 17-year-old daughter, Deborah, had baffled investigators for 35 years.
But in 2015, prosecutors announced charges against Cruz -- the man they say shot the mother and daughter to death as they tried to escape from their burning home.
Cruz, who was 19 at the time of the murders, is believed to be one of multiple men involved in the crime.
Nancy and Deborah Patterson were killed at their Middle Creek Road home in Freedom Township in August 1980. Police say the two were attempting to flee from the burning home around 3 a.m., when they were both shot and killed.
Cruz's uncle, Erasmo, who was Deborah Patterson's ex-boyfriend in 1980, remains in prison after a plea deal in this case that was made in 2014.
Erasmo Cruz was arrested for his connection to the case in 2012, and is serving a 16- to 40-year sentence.
Another man, Ruperto Garcia, was taken into custody one week later.
Police say Garcia provided them with new information that Abraham Cruz Jr. was ultimately the shooter.
A fourth man was also involved in the killings and fire at the home, police say, but he died in 2005.
Nancy Patterson’s partner, Paul Sell, was also shot that night. But Sell survived the attack.
Nancy Patterson’s son was originally tried for the murders but was acquitted on all charges in 1981.He suggested to police that his sister’s ex-boyfriend could have been involved.