Trial scheduled for alleged cold case killer, other suspect may take plea deal

Trial scheduled for alleged cold case killer, other suspect may take plea deal

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RACINE — A trial is scheduled to begin later this month for one of two men charged in a 2000 homicide, while the other man may accept a plea deal Tuesday.

In August 2017, Miguel A. Cruz and Elias J. Burgos were charged in the killing of Juanita Zdroik, a 39-year-old mother of three from Milwaukee. Zdroik was found dead on the side of Highway K with a gunshot wound to the head in February 2000.

Both Cruz and Burgos were charged with first-degree intentional homicide, with Burgos being charged as a party to a crime.

Both pleaded not guilty in October 2017, and are being tried separately.

On Friday, a final pretrial hearing was held for Cruz, now 41, online records show. A four-day jury trial has been scheduled, and is anticipated to begin on Sept. 23 at the Racine County Law Enforcement Center, 717 Wisconsin Ave.

In June, defense attorneys were working on a resolution to Burgos’ case, online records show. Burgos, now 38, is set to appear at a plea hearing on Tuesday.

The cases are both assigned to Racine County Circuit Judge Mark Nielsen.

Cold case reheated

A criminal complaint indicated that “the incident began at a Milwaukee drug house,” The Journal Times reported.

The men weren’t charged for 17 years.

Investigators made a breakthrough in the case in January 2017, after they received information about a double homicide in Milwaukee that may have been tied to Zdroik’s death.

In that homicide, two male victims were found shot to death in the 3500 block of North 10th Street on Feb. 7, 2000 — just days after Zdroik’s body was found.

The cases were connected when it was discovered that blood from one of the victims in the Milwaukee case was found on Zdroik’s pants.

A Milwaukee Police Department officer then told Racine County investigators that a witness in the Milwaukee case said that he had seen Zdroik being killed.

Cruz was arrested on Aug. 28, 2017, in Tampa, Fla., and Burgos was arrested soon after. Authorities had presumed Burgos was hiding in Puerto Rico.


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