MALDEN – Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Malden Chief of Police Glenn Cronin have announced that, following a six day trial, Rodney Daniels has been convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Patricia Moreno on July 20, 1991.
“When a family loses a loved one in a homicide, even the passage of time never fully heals that wound. That is especially true when they do not have answers about what happened and no one has been held accountable. Those who knew and loved Tricia have been waiting over three decades for answers. When I created our Cold Case Unit it was my hope that we would be able to get to these resolutions. These older cases present substantial challenges and require relentless investigative work and dedicated resources,” said District Attorney Ryan.
In 2020, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit began re-examining this case. Crime scene investigators returned to 21 Henry Street and reconstructed the position of Tricia on the third-floor fire escape. Based on the position of the entry wound and the trajectory of the bullet, they determined that the path of the bullet was consistent with having been fired by an individual standing in the area of the doorway to the apartment where Tricia had resided with her foster family. Daniels had been staying in that home on the evening of the murder.
Investigators also began re-interviewing witnesses and were able to locate a witness who had been out of the United States for an extended period. That witness, who lived in the second-floor apartment at the time of Patricia’s murder, revealed that, on the night of the murder, he had been awakened by a loud noise and immediately looked up through the third-floor fire escape. He saw a young woman (later identified as Patricia Moreno) struggling to breathe with a male standing over her. He watched as that male retreated into the foster family’s apartment. The witness was able to provide a physical description of that man which was consistent with the appearance of Rodney Daniels.
Investigators also developed new information that an alibi witness, who had protected Daniels in 1991, had later admitted to her friends and family members that Daniels had killed Tricia, that he had concealed the murder weapon inside an armchair and that he had subsequently disposed of the gun. That alibi witness, although now deceased, had admitted that she lied to police investigators and an investigating grand jury in 1991 in order to protect Daniels. She had said that, even many years later, she was afraid to disclose what she knew because she feared that admitting her complicity in the cover-up would expose her to prosecution.
As District Attorney Ryan explained, “The team that worked in this case was not deterred by the passage of time and used every tool at their disposal to root out new information critical to this successful prosecution.”
Based on all of that new information, investigators applied for and obtained a warrant from the Malden District Court for the arrest of Rodney Daniels on the charge of murder. On September 27, 2021, Daniels was arrested at his home in Georgia by officers of the City of South Fulton Police, with the assistance of their Metro South Swat Team. He was arraigned in Georgia as a fugitive from justice and was transported back to Massachusetts to face trial for murder.
On the night of Patricia’s death, police responded to the third floor apartment at 21 Henry Street, Malden, where Patricia Moreno, known to those who loved her as Tricia, was found with a single gunshot wound to the head. That home was a foster home where she had been placed. Also living in that apartment were the foster mother, her two teenage daughters, and the older daughter’s boyfriend, Rodney Daniels.
When police and emergency medical personnel arrived, Tricia was found alone, face down, on the third floor fire escape landing, still breathing but seriously injured. She was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital, where it was determined that she had suffered an irreversible brain injury. She died that afternoon as a result of the gunshot wound. Despite an extensive search, no weapon or cartridge casing was recovered from the scene. A projectile, recovered from Tricia’s body during a subsequent autopsy, was examined by a State Police ballistics expert and determined to be consistent with having been fired from a .38 caliber weapon.
The other occupants of the apartment claimed that they had heard a pair of gunshots, but had no information as to the identity of the shooter. There was no evidence of forced entry into the home. When the police interviewed Rodney Daniels, he claimed that he had been sleeping in an armchair in the living room when he was awakened by the sound of two gunshots. He claimed that he had walked out onto the fire escape where he located Patricia Moreno. Her foster mother called for police and an ambulance.
Police learned that Rodney Daniels had been in possession of multiple handguns close in time to the murder, including one that was consistent with a .38 caliber revolver. In the weeks before her death, Daniels had engaged in threatening behavior towards Tricia. Although numerous people were interviewed over the course of many years, police had not previously been able to gather sufficient evidence to make an arrest.
The prosecutors assigned to this case were David Solet, Chief of the Cold Case Unit, and Jamie Charles, Senior Appellate Counsel. The Victim Witness Advocate assigned to the case was Kristen Chamberlain.