Erasmo Cruz, 56, and another man are charged in the August 1980 slayings of 41-year-old Nancy Patterson and 18-year-old Deborah Patterson. Police have said Molotov cocktails were thrown into the Freedom Township home and the mother and daughter were shot to death by masked men when they ran outside.
Cruz was brought from Puerto Rico to face charges of criminal homicide, conspiracy, arson and burglary. Officials said witnesses told them in 2010 that Cruz, who had been involved with Deborah Patterson, was "extremely jealous and abusive" and she had just ended their relationship.
Defense attorney Karl Rominger argued in documents filed Friday in Adams County Court that developing an adequate defense is impossible because witnesses have died and survivors' memories have faded, The (Hanover) Evening Sun ( http://bit.ly/1aj7YbP) said.
A relative of one of the victims was originally charged but acquitted at trial in 1981. Rominger's motion cites the earlier charges against another man and said the commonwealth failed to preserve the transcript of that trial, which is now unavailable. The lack of that record, he said, means a fair trial is not possible.
"There is no reason to believe anybody destroyed anything intentionally," Rominger said. "But the case law states that it doesn't matter how the transcript was lost."
Information from: The Evening Sun, http://www.eveningsun.com