We (Rosie’s 7 siblings: her twin Ruby, Jimmy, Pam, Felicita, Maria, Juan, and Angelica; her mother Rebecca; her 3 children: Sarah, Theresa and Joey; and many cousins, in-laws, friends and supporters) sat in court from 8:30 am – 1:00 pm before Judge Timothy Kenny announced that jury selection for the Juan Cruz murder trial will be adjourned for the day and will resume on the following Monday December 10th, 2012. The knots in our stomachs tightened at that moment. But we had no choice. We have been waiting for over 23 years to have this happen, we could wait another weekend.Day 2: Monday December 10th, 2012
Witnesses were sequestered in a private quarters, or witness room. We sat in silence for hours awaiting jury selection and possible opening arguments. The anticipation mounted as we began to banter on mundane topics such as television shows and vacation anecdotes. What became clear to us as officers, lawyers and court officials passed through our waiting room, was what an extraordinary case we had on our hands. By the end of the day, just after 4:00 pm, we were greeted by Athina Siringas our Wayne County Prosecutor taking the case to trial. She said that jury selection was over and testimony would begin on the next morning after opening arguments. She relayed to us instructions from the judge: to remain on or below the 5th floor prior to 8:30 am every day for the remainder of the trial. The defendants’ family was to remain on the 7th floor prior to 8:30 am; all for the effort to separate both families from the jury until they were able to make their way to the courtroom.Day 3: Tuesday December 11th, 2012
Opening arguments ensued by 9:00 am in Judge Timothy Kenny’s 6th floor courtroom at Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in downtown Detroit, Michigan. Witnesses Theresa Ramirez, Pamela Silva, James Woolwine, Maria Hernandez, Lisa Reyna, and several others who were called on by Prosecutor Siringas, sat in the witness room. We sat in eager anticipation of our turns to testify. Maria Hernandez was called first, as Rosie’s then 16 year old sister who last saw her alive on June 13, 1989. Then Rebecca Lugo, Rosie’s mother. Next was Theresa Ramirez, who testified to abuse she witnessed towards Rosie in 1989 by her then boyfriend, Juan Cruz. Theresa also testified to her actions taken since 2007 in her efforts to bring Juan Cruz to face his murder and possession of a gun, charges issued in 1989. The defense unsuccessfully attempted to rule Theresa’s statement inadmissible. But judge Kenny made it very clear that Theresa’s actions are indeed the root of why we were all there to witness any trial in this case. And so the jury WILL hear every word of her testimony. We ended court that day on that strong note. We ended by 1:00 pm and made our ways home to get some rest for the next day, where most assumed the jury would begin deliberations.Day 4: Wednesday December 12th, 2012
Testimonies came from the Wayne County Medical Examiner on this case from 1989, who indicated about 9 ligature marks found on Rosie’s neck which spoke to a possible altercation with another person. Though the defense did their best to assume that suicide could have been plausible, the ME maintained his original finding of Homicide as the cause of death. Next was the Detroit Crime Scene investigator from 1989 who admitted to not being able to recall many aspects of this case. His testimony affirmed a blood stained couch in the upper area of the apartment as well as a separate area down at the bottom of the front entrance stairwell where Rosie was ultimately discovered. Next was James Woolwine, oldest brother to Rosie Woolwine (victim). James reported visiting the residence of Juan Cruz in search of sister, after receiving a suspicious phone call from Juan Cruz, refusing to allow James to speak with Rosie. Next was Pamela Silva, sister of Rosie Woolwine, as the author of the Missing Persons report upon Rosie’s disappearance on June 13th, 1989 (night of the Pistons Vs. Lakers Game 7). The defense again tried to point out the meaningless fact that the Missing Persons report was not filed until 4 days after Rosie went missing. But they did not allow for an explanation as to the sentiment of the time and the community aspect of locating Rosie amongst friends and family who had direct contact with Rosie. Simply put, they like most families of tragedy, never thought she would end up the way she did. A man known as Edmundo took the stand next, as the son of the property owner at the residence where Rosie was discovered, and also the downstairs neighbor at the time of her discovery. He denied any involvement but noted several actions of suspicious nature on and around the property during the time of Rosie’s disappearance. A Mr. Rivas took the stand and admitted to an encounter with Juan Cruz shortly before Rosie’s murder in 1989, when Cruz offered to sell Mr. Rivas a .357 caliber firearm. Rivas described the blackish firearm as he also said he could not afford at the time so he went on his way. Last to speak was Ralph Openshaw, former lead investigator on Rosie’s case. He backed up his initial orders and methods of investigation for this case and pointed at Juan Cruz’s flee from the US to Mexico as reasoning behind a lack of apprehension success. At the end of this day, it seemed like the jury just did not know enough about Rosie or the truth and we bore all the burden of proof of a relationship, abuse and ultimately murder beyond a shadow of a doubt. We stood a long fight in the final day of testimony to come.Day 5: Thursday December 13th, 2012
Lisa Reyna took the stand, as Rosie’s closest cousin in 1989, and a fellow Giovanna’s employee, a bar they also frequented on a day off here or there. Lisa recalled her last night with Rosie, as she had a celebratory night along with many other Southwest Detroiters in Pistons pride upon their victory against the LA Lakers in the NBA Championships. No one ever saw Rosie once she left Giovanna’s that night. Rosa Torres was the witness we were all waiting for, and the defense would spare no ethical expense to call her memory and motive to question. Try as they may, Rosa composed herself and firmly recalled what she could and refused to be coerced into further accusation or confusion. She stated what Juan Cruz, father to 2 of her children, had done to her throughout the 9 years of their relationship, as well as what he admitted to doing to my mother Rosie Woolwine. The damaging testimony came when Rosa described actions of Juan’s that only Juan Cruz, murderer of Rosie Woolwine could have known. She points him as the person who fled upon his actions and who knew to stay away for 20+ years. Despite attempts from the defense, Rosa did not waver and her testimony sealed Cruz’s fate. Next was Aaron Garcia, US Marshal who apprehended Cruz from Mexican authorities and escorted him back to Detroit in May of 2012. Officer Moises Jimenez spoke the final words of testimony in this trial as he gave his perspective as lead investigator in charge of the case today.Day 6: Friday December 14th, 2012
We filed into the courtroom unable to expect a thing, given the push and pull of the justice system thus far. We braced ourselves and stayed strong as we held hands off and on, held each other, uplifted each other and preoccupied our recesses and lunch breaks with light humor and banter. This day was more ominous, we saw it as a potential end to this phase of the grieving process, should we be lucky enough to receive a verdict on this day. But trust me, we have the endurance to wait for this jury to come to their careful deliberation. We waited 23 years thus far, what’s another few days, right? The Prosecution laid out the facts of the case in their closing arguments and pointed at the lack of basis in the questioning raised by the defense toward each witness. The defense rebutted with gross misrepresentation of Rosie’s character, nature and even moral fiber. Her family stood firm as each terrible low blow rolled off our shoulders and deflected off our ears. We knew this was his last ditch effort to muddy up waters and appeal to a jury. The prosecution stood and as they gave their final words, fought to show the jury Rosie’s true heart and loving spirit, and more importantly the man who tried his damnedest to avoid facing the consequences of his sociopathic actions towards his girlfriend, Rosie Woolwine.
The jury was given their instructions to convict only if no reasonable doubt existed. If there was no reasonable doubt that Juan Cruz murdered Rosie, Guilty shall be the verdict. It was about 11:00 am when the jury made their exit towards deliberation chambers. We waited there until 12:20 pm, when we broke for lunch and the jury was dismissed for 1 hour. They returned and deliberated until 4:00 pm when the bailiff warned them to wrap their work up and return on Monday morning at 9:00 am. They said that they were close to a verdict and only needed a few more minutes. The bailiff gave them 10 minutes and checked on them, with only a request for a few more minutes by the jury. He obliged and 10 minutes later at 4:20 pm, the bailiff made another check and they requested a few more minutes. The bailiff poked his head in at 4:30 pm with his instruction for them to return on Monday.Day 7: Monday December 17th, 2012
This day was unlike any other. We knew exactly what was ahead, as I am sure we all showed in our purple ribbed tee’s underneath each of our tops. We held each other tightly as we sat and heard questions raised by the jury. There were 2, and it took nearly an hour and a half for them to ask their questions, wait for the lawyers and judge to discuss the legality of each question, bring the jury into the courtroom to explain each answer given, and excuse them with their answers verbal and written. They reviewed for maybe 10 minutes at most as we chatted with our sub-prosecution representative while our attorney was out of town.
We rushed back into the courtroom as we heard the words VERDICT by those we bumbled around the courtroom door. There were an overabundance of Wayne County Sheriffs as they stood guard against whomever should choose to act out their emotions in any way. We were warned by the officers and the judge, not to make any outbursts in approval or disapproval of the verdict. The judge called in the jury and began to ask the foreman for the verdict. The next few moments happened so slowly that I can see it as clearly as the words on this computer screen. In the first count of Second Degree Murder, we find the defendant GUILTY…WHOA HE JUST SAID GUILTY! We took in a breath all unanimously and sobbed separately and then together as we took in the second count of Possession of a Firearm, we find the defendant GUILTY. We were met with stern looks by the officers and immediately got a grip on ourselves and peacefully sat and sobbed until the jury had a chance to make their way out of the courtroom. Not before we got our chance to thank each and every one of them through our tears and smiles of relief and joy. We saw the anguish on their faces as we read their grief for Rosie and what came of her beautiful and promising life. We were soon allowed to make our exit once the jury was safely out first. We stood in the hallway and held hands in a moment of silence and reflection, thankful for the resolution after 23 years. We promptly made our way to Rosie’s place of rest in Woodmere cemetery in Southwest Detroit, MI.
We celebrated all day long and continue to do so in Rosie’s name and honor. We will never look back on the demise and tragic ending as our memories of her. We will instead carry her name and heart with us as we pass it down to our children. Grace, love, respect and character are all components of Rosie’s essence. We remember her when we love each other, when we’re there for each other and when we forgive each other. Rosie’s spirit will never die, so long as we open our hearts and share with each other what she meant and how strong she was.
WE WILL NEVER EVER FORGET YOU, ROSIE…This one was for you, mom