CT man charged with 80s murders

December 6, 2008 3:56:22 PM PST
A registered sex offender was charged Friday with the 1980s killings of three Hartford teenagers, and a man convicted in one of the deaths asked the court for a new trial to clear his name. Pedro Miranda, 51, was arrested at his New Britain home and charged with multiple counts of capital felony and murder stemming from a cold case investigation by state and local police and state prosecutors.

Miranda is charged with killing 16-year-old Rosa Valentin in 1986, 13-year-old Mayra Cruz in 1987 and 17-year-old Carmen Lopez in 1988.

He faces the possibility of the death sentence if convicted in the deaths, which prosecutors describe in a warrant as "sexually motivated homicides."

The Connecticut Innocence Project also petitioned court officials this week for a new trial on behalf of Lopez's boyfriend, Miguel Roman, who is serving a 60-year term in her death.

Attorneys with the group say new DNA tests exonerate Roman, 52, who was sentenced in 1990.

Miranda, whose adult arrest record dates to 1977, is listed on the Connecticut Sex Offender Registry for a 1988 conviction for raping a 24-year-old woman in West Hartford.

The statute of limitations for sex assault charges in the 1980s cases has passed. Miranda does not face any such charges in the deaths, but prosecutors say DNA evidence from two of the victims' bodies helped lead them to him.

Information was not immediately available Friday on whether he had an attorney.

According to the arrest warrant, Valentin was last seen accepting a ride from Miranda, a new acquaintance, on July 26, 1986. Her body has never been found.

Mayra Cruz's family reported her missing on Oct. 8, 1997, when the 13-year-old failed to show up at her Hartford middle school.

Witnesses reported seeing her in Miranda's car, allegations he repeatedly denied.

Her body was found about a month later in a field at a garden center in East Windsor where Miranda had once worked, according to the warrant. An autopsy concluded she had been raped and died of head trauma.

Lopez, who was six months pregnant, disappeared about three months later after leaving a family party on Jan. 2, 1988. She told her cousin she was going to meet Roman, her boyfriend.

Miranda, who was dating Lopez's cousin, accompanied the cousin and another family member a few days later to an apartment where Lopez had been house-sitting, but the door was locked, the warrant says.

Hartford police entered the home and found Lopez dead amid signs of a major struggle. An autopsy concluded she had been raped, beaten and strangled.

Miranda knew from other family members that Lopez would be alone in the apartment, but denied any involvement in her death even when investigators told him this year that Roman's conviction was being challenged, according to an affidavit for Miranda's arrest warrant.

An FBI investigator testified in Roman's trial that tests eliminated him as a suspect, but a jury convicted him on circumstantial evidence and witness testimony, according to the warrant.

DNA from the crime scenes and from Lopez's and Cruz's bodies was retested after the Connecticut Innocence Project and Connecticut Public Defender's Office pushed to reopen the Lopez investigation earlier this year.

Miranda was being held Friday on $7.5 million bond and is scheduled to appear in Hartford Superior Court on Monday.

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