RACINE — Nineteen years ago this month, 39-year-old Juanita Zdroik was found dead on the side of the road along Highway K in the Town of Raymond.
In 2017, two suspects were arrested in connection with the mother of three’s death.
Last week, a judge ruled the two suspects will no longer be prosecuted together, moving the cold case one step closer to a conclusion.
Miguel A. Cruz, 41, of Tampa, Florida, and Elias J. Burgos, 38, of Milwaukee, who were being tried together, will now be tried separately, Racine County Circuit Court Judge Mark Nielsen decided Friday.
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 killing.
A jury trial for Burgos is scheduled for March 5-7, online records show. There are still motions to be argued in Cruz’s case, online records show. A motion hearing for Cruz is set for Feb. 25.
Both men remain in custody on a $500,000 cash bond, online records show.
Woman found in Raymond
According to the criminal complaint, Zdroik was found dead with a gunshot wound to her head in the 6600 block of Highway K in Raymond on Feb. 7, 2000. The complaint goes on to lay out a series of events described by a witness, who said the incident began at a Milwaukee drug house. Zdroik was reportedly hysterically crying after seeing 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, 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.
Break in cold case
The break in the case came in January 2017, when investigators learned that the Milwaukee double homicide may have been tied to Zdroik’s death.
Blood from one of the victims 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, Cruz and Burgos were developed as the prime suspects, Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said during a September 2017 news conference at the Sheriff Patrol Station in Yorkville.
Schmaling said Cruz had been arrested in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 28, 2017, and was awaiting extradition. At the time, an arrest warrant was issued for Burgos, whom the Sheriff’s Office believed was hiding somewhere in Puerto Rico. Cruz was taken into custody later that month.