RACINE -- It's a grisly murder that went unsolved for nearly two decades. Now, two suspects have been identified.
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said on Monday, September 11th investigators have arrested a suspect in a homicide that happened more than 17 years ago. The victim was Juanita Zdroik, a mother of three who was murdered just 12 days after her 39th birthday.
According to officials, in the early morning hours of February 7th, 2000, the Racine County Sheriff's Office responded to a deceased female lying on the side of Highway K in the Town of Raymond.
"Nearly 18 years ago, I was one of the first deputy sheriffs on scene," Schmaling said. "I stand here today with many emotions."
The body was later identified as Zdroik, a resident of Milwaukee County. She had been fatally shot.
"At that time, the Racine County Sheriff's Office conducted a thorough and extensive investigation into her death the case remained open and throughout the years leads were developed and and investigated until their logical conclusion," Schmaling said.
Then in January 2017, investigators received information regarding a double homicide that occurred in Milwaukee on February 7th, 2000 may be connected to the Zdroik homicide. A witness statement said Zdroik drove the car used in the killing -- and blood found on Zdroik's clothes matched one of the fatal victims. A criminal complaint also suggests Zdroik knew the men who killed her -- and everyone involved was at the same house earlier that night.
The investigation ultimately identified 39-year-old Miguel Cruz and 36-year-old Elias Burgos as the primary suspects in the Zdroik homicide.
A criminal complaint has been filed against Cruz and Burgos. Each faces one count of first-degree intentional homicide, use of a dangerous weapon. The complaint indicates Zdroik was witness to the murders of two men on February 7th, 2000. A witness told police Zdroik "was crying hysterically, saying 'He killed them, he killed them," referring to a man who killed two others on Milwaukee's north side.
After that double homicide, the complaint says Cruz and Burgos indicated they would take Zdroik "to Chicago and give her money and a new car." On the way to Chicago, the complaint indicates Zdroik was still crying and hysterical -- and "kept asking for money and a car." But somewhere in Racine County, Cruz and Burgos got off the freeway and made their way to Highway K. At that point, the witness told investigators he saw Cruz get out of the car, open the front passenger door where Zdroik had been sitting, and removed her from the vehicle. Moments later, the complaint says Cruz fatally shot Zdroik.
According to the complaint, after Cruz got back into the vehicle he stated, "This is what happens to snitches."
Cruz was located in Tampa, Florida on August 28th. He was taken into custody -- and is awaiting extradition to Wisconsin, officials said.
As for Burgos, he is not in custody. A warrant has been issued for his arrest -- and officials believe he is in Puerto Rico.
"I am confident it will bring closure to the families, heartache which shattered the lives of three children and has forever robbed them of their mother," Sheriff Schmaling said on Monday.