OAK FOREST (STMW) — Martin Rodriguez waited until he and his wife had seen their son and daughter off to school.
Then, just minutes after their teenage boy walked to his high school across the street from their home in Oak Forest, a prosecutor said Rodriguez began to strangle Erica Rodriguez, the woman he’d been married to for 17 years.
He broke a bone in her neck, said Assistant State’s Attorney Kim Przekota, laid her down perfectly straight on the bed where he’d been sleeping alone as their marriage fell apart, and he placed a family photo and a Bible beside her body.
Then, Przekota said, Rodriguez slit his throat and set fire to the house and his wife’s body.
A Cook County judge refused bail for Rodriguez Sunday after hearing the details of the gruesome crime from Przekota. Rodriguez survived the fire, according to the prosecutor, by crawling outside through an upstairs rear sliding door. He continued to bleed there until he was rescued by police and paramedics.
He’s now charged with first-degree murder and aggravated arson. A police officer who appeared in bond court declined to answer questions, and Oak Forest police officials didn’t immediately return a call for comment.
They’ve previously said Rodriguez was being treated for his injuries at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and was in police custody, and his children are with other family members.
Przekota said Rodriguez and his wife had been having marital problems — she’d taken off her wedding ring and was sleeping on the couch while he spent his nights alone in the bed at the house in the 15200 block of S. Central Avenue.
His wife had also been communicating with male friends from high school through Facebook, she said, and Rodriguez suspected his wife had been cheating on him. She said Rodriguez’s wife had given him five months to leave the house.
On Dec. 14 Rodriguez, feeling he shouldn’t be forced out of the home, asked his son to go through his wife’s cell phone, even giving the boy the password, according to the prosecutor. The boy discovered his mother had been texting someone about getting a lawyer.
So on Dec. 18, Rodriguez and his wife drove their young daughter to school and returned home, Przekota said. Their son, 15, left next and walked across the street to his high school. And Rodriguez’s wife prepared to do the laundry.
But that’s when Rodriguez attacked, according to Przekota. She said he broke his wife’s hyotial bone before placing her body on the bed and setting the fire using an unknown accelerant.
The prosecutor said Erica Rodriguez was found dead, having been strangled and suffering second-degree burns to her head and body. Her husband was taken to the hospital.
Martin Rodriguez gave three very different versions of what happened that day, Przekota said — one to his brother and sister-in-law, a second to his brother and a third to police. She said each story he gave was contradicted by witness testimony and physical evidence inside the house.
Police found three knives in the home, she said. Rodriguez also wore a different set of clothing when he was cut than when his son last saw him, according to the prosecutor, meaning he hadn’t been attacked immediately upon entry as she said he initially claimed, because he had time to change clothes.
Investigators found lots of blood in front of a bathroom sink in an upstairs bathroom the defendant said he never uses, and there were no signs of forced entry, Przekota told the judge. She also said no property was missing, and no one saw an intruder go into the home.
Rodriguez’s ex-wife also sought out police after hearing about the murder, Przekota said. The ex-wife said Rodriguez choked her repeatedly during their 27-year marriage. She also said she walked in once as he was choking their infant child on the floor in a closet.
The ex-wife had to administer CPR, Przekota said, and Rodriguez threatened she’d be next if she told anyone what happened, and no one would be there to help her.
A few days before her murder, Przekota said Erica Rodriguez told her boss she had argued with Rodriguez once and he acted like he was going to hit her. She told him to go through with it but he never did.
But Przekota also said Erica Rodriguez’s phone records show she sent a text to a friend on Dec. 17. It said, “I think I better take the expensive lawyer … things might get rough around here.”
Neighbors tell CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey they never suspected issues with the family but published reports say the couple was on the verge of divorce. The couple had 3 children who are now staying with family and friends.
A fund has been set up to help the children at the CNB Bank in Oak Forest. Donations made in c/o Rodriguez Family Fund.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)