In June 2012, César Pérez and his wife Katy Medina were out of the country when they got the horrific news that their daughter, Asia Medina Pérez, age 2, was dead — her battered body found on a hillside behind Medina’s sister, Dalia’s home on Route 32 in New Paltz. The little girl had been spending time with her aunt, her husband, Joseph Rodriguez, and their two children while Pérez traveled for his job as an official with the Dominican Republic’s embassy to Trinidad and Tobago.
Last week the couple sat side by side, arms locked, flanked by an advocate from Ulster County Victims Services and an interpreter provided by New York State, while Rodriguez stood trial for the murder of their daughter. The couple, speaking through the interpreter, said that they had no doubt that Rodriguez was guilty and they hoped to see him convicted and sentenced to the maximum possible term in state prison.
“This doesn’t bring back our daughter,” said Medina. “But we hope justice is done because at this point it’s the only thing that can be done.”
Rodriguez’s trial opened on Wednesday, Nov. 6 with District Attorney Holley Carnright laying out the state’s case — that Medina Pérez was brutally beaten to death by Rodriguez by the side of the family’s home at 332 Route 32 North sometime on the morning of June 20. Rodriguez, Carnright said, then discarded the girl’s body on the hillside and returned to the house where he removed an air conditioner from a window in a back bedroom in an attempt to “stage a crime scene” and make the death look like the work of a stealthy intruder. To bolster his case, Carnright said, he would present a wealth of evidence. Investigators, Carnright told the jury, found Rodriguez’s car keys beneath some dry leaves near a blood-spattered corner on the exterior of the house where they believe Asia was killed. In a dryer inside the house cops found an extra-large white sleeveless T-shirt still damp and despite having apparently been treated with bleach, bearing traces of the little girl’s blood. Her blood, Carnright argued, also turned up on a pair of work boots inside the house. Besides the removal of the air conditioner, Carnright continued, there was no sign of a struggle, break-in or crime inside the home that would indicate Asia was abducted by an outsider.
“All of the evidence in this case points to the defendant and only the defendant,” Carnright told the jury.
Defense attorney Cappy Weiner, meanwhile said that the case against his client was built on a flawed investigation. Police, Weiner argued, focused in on Rodriguez immediately and to the exclusion of other suspects or theories of the crime. Though he did not mention it in his opening argument — police investigating the murder would have been aware that Rodriguez, 44 had killed before.
According to a report published in the Times Herald-Record earlier this year, Rodriguez was convicted at trial of second-degree murder in the beating death of a woman in the Bronx back in 1993. Rodriguez was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison for the crime. In 1996, however, his conviction was overturned on appeal after his attorney argued that the defense in his original trial had never given written consent before a juror was replaced. Rodriguez opted to forgo a second trial and instead pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter. State prison records show that he was released in 2007 and off parole three years later.