YORKVILLE — The Racine County Sheriff’s Office has arrested one of two men accused as the killers in the 2000 homicide of Juanita Zdroik, Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said during a Monday morning news conference at the Sheriff Patrol Station.
“I am here today to talk about a heart-wrenching murder and a brutal execution of a 39-year-old mother of three,” Schmaling said. “Nearly 18 years ago, I was one of the first deputy sheriffs on the scene.”
He’d been dispatched to a body found on the side of the road along Highway K in the Town of Raymond on Feb. 7, 2000, Schmaling said: “That disturbing memory will be forever etched in our memories.”
But Schmaling said his dedicated investigative team has brought some solace to the family of Zdroik, a Milwaukee County resident, by arresting Miguel A. Cruz and issuing a warrant for Elias Burgos in the Zdroik homicide.
Cruz was arrested in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 28 and is awaiting extradition, the sheriff said. He is charged with first-degree intentional homicide by use of a dangerous weapon.
A warrant has been issued for Burgos, who is believed to be hiding somewhere in Puerto Rico.
Schmaling said his investigators had spent “hundreds of hours snapping pieces together.”
Leads were developed over the years, he said. Most recently, in January, investigators received information about a double homicide in Milwaukee which might have been related to the death of Zdroik. In that homicide, two male victims were found shot to death.
Through an extensive investigation, they identified Cruz, 39, and Burgos, 36, as the prime suspects, Schmaling said.
Gunshot to the head
According to the criminal complaint issued Monday, Zdroik was found dead in the 6600 block of Highway K with a gunshot wound to her head. Her death was connected to the double homicide in Milwaukee by the fact that the blood of one of the victims in that case was found on Zdroik’s pants. That led investigators to a witness to her killing.
The complaint lays out a series of events, described by a witness, starting at a Milwaukee drug house, during which Zdroik was hysterically crying after seeing the other two victims killed. After that, Cruz and Burgos allegedly said, “We are going to take the lady (Zdroik) to Chicago and give her money and a new car.”
Cruz, Burgos, the witness and Zdroik allegedly set her car on fire and started driving south on Interstate 94 in a van with Zdroik in the front passenger’s seat. They turned off on a road, evidently Highway K, and stopped after a few minutes. The complaint states that Cruz tried to pull Zdroik out of the van while she tried to resist and hang onto it, then shot her in the head with the same gun that had been used on the two male victims.
Burgos then allegedly ran over Zdroik’s body twice to make sure she was dead.
According to the complaint, Cruz has been convicted of felony drug trafficking, felony conspiracy to traffic heroin and two counts of felony racketeering.
If convicted on the Zdroik homicide charge, Cruz faces life in prison.