RACINE — Two suspects arrested for their alleged involvement in a 2000 homicide of a 39-year-old Milwaukee woman pleaded not guilty Thursday.
Miguel A. Cruz, represented by attorney Margaret Johnson, and Elias J. Burgos, represented by attorney Daniel Sanders, both appeared in court Thursday before Racine County Court Commissioner Stephen Simanek and entered not-guilty pleas.
Cruz is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, and Burgos is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, as a party to a crime, in connection to the homicide that occurred Feb. 2, 2000.
Arrests took years
News that an arrest had been made in the 2000 cold case homicide of Juanita Zdroik was announced during a Sept. 11 news conference at the Sheriff Patrol Station in Yorkville.
Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said Cruz had been arrested in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 28, and was awaiting extradition, and an arrest warrant had been issued for Burgos, whom the Sheriff’s Office believed was hiding somewhere in Puerto Rico.
The break in the case came in January, after investigators received information about a double homicide in Milwaukee that may have been tied to Zdroik’s death. In that homicide, two male victims had been found shot to death in the 3500 block of North 10th Street on Feb. 7, 2000.
Zdroik’s death was connected to the double homicide when blood from one of the victims in the Milwaukee case was found on Zdroik’s pants. A Milwaukee Police Department officer told Racine County investigators that a witness in the Milwaukee case provided information about Zdroik’s murder and said he was a witness to her homicide.
Through that witness, investigators identified Cruz, 39, and Burgos, 36, as the prime suspects, Schmaling said.
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Woman found with gunshot to head
According to the criminal complaint, Zdroik, a Milwaukee County resident, was found dead in the 6600 block of Highway K in Raymond with a gunshot wound to her head.
The complaint lays out a series of events that are 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, a 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 Cruz tried to pull Zdroik out of the van while she tried to resist and hang onto it. It was then that Cruz allegedly shot her in the head with the same gun that had reportedly been used on the two male victims.
Burgos then reportedly 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. Burgos was previously found guilty of battery, online records show.
Both men remain in jail on a $500,000 cash bond. A pre-trial conference is set for Dec. 1.