Suspect arrested for 1991 cold-case murder of Massachusetts teenager fatally shot while smoking on fire escape

middlesex
Source: Middlesex District Attorney's Office; MEGA

Sep. 30 2021, Published 3:29 p.m. ET

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A Massachusetts teenager was living in a foster home in 1991 when she was shot in the head and died from her injuries. More than 30 years later, police have identified and arrested a suspect in her murder.

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Rodney Daniels, 48, is accused of killing 17-year-old Patricia Moreno in Malden, Massachusetts, while she smoked on a third-floor fire escape around 3 a.m. July 20, 1991, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said at a Sept. 29 news conference.

According to Ryan, Daniels,of South Fulton, Georgia, was dating the victim’s foster sister. He would have been 18 at the time of the shooting.

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“This is a case that was solved not by a new development in forensic science, but as a result of relentless investigative work and a change in circumstances for some parties involved,” Ryan said.

Daniels spoke with investigators shortly after the shooting and claimed he fell asleep in the living room and was woken up by two gunshots. He said he then went out on to the home’s fire escape, where he found Moreno wounded. Moreno’s foster mother called emergency dispatchers for help.

According to the district attorney, “We do know in the weeks and months leading up to the day of the shooting, the allegations are there was a continuing threatening behavior allegedly on the part of Mr. Daniels and he had multiple handguns."

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Ryan noted Daniels was arrested after cold case detectives looked again at the incident, and a new eyewitness provided information related to the night of the murder, including the witness hearing a noise and looking out on the fire escape. “He provided a physical description of the individual who he saw out on that fire escape,” Ryan said.

“When we created a dedicated unit to look at our uncharged cases, we hoped for outcomes like this one,” Ryan said of police taking Daniels into custody in Georgia on Sept. 28 on a murder charge. “We know that time can change many things and, in this case, we were able to uncover new information that led us to this arrest.”

“If you’re out there and you think you got away with something, remember today and remember we do not forget,” Malden Police Chief Kevin Molis said. “We do our jobs today and for the next generation.”

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