Latina; age 32 at crime; murder of Latino male (her husband) age
41 in Montebello (Los Angeles County) on 9-9-2000; sentenced on
Summary of Offense:
Rodriguez tried at least three times to kill
her husband Frank, finally succeeding, on September 9, 2000, by
spiking his Gatorade with antifreeze. Her motive was a $250,000
life insurance policy. She was also convicted of threatening a
witness to whom she had revealed her plan to kill Frank.
The prosecution also proved in aggravation that
Rodriguez had killed her baby in 1993 by breaking a pacifier and
ramming part of it down the baby’s throat, and then bringing a
tort suit against the manufacturer. While the defense lawyer
stated to the press after the case that he couldn’t find much of a
defense on the guilt/innocence issue, Rodriguez insisted to the
judge that she had not committed the crime, and that Frank must
have drunk the antifreeze on his own. In mitigation, the defense
presented evidence that she had been sexually abused as a child.
Rodriguez was sentenced to death in Los Angeles
County on November 1, 2010.
Wife Gets Death for
The Montebello woman poisoned her spouse with
antifreeze to collect insurance money
By Anna Gorman - Los Angeles Times
January 13, 2004
Three months after Angelina and Frank Rodriguez
got married, the Montebello woman took out a $250,000 life
insurance policy on her husband and began trying to kill him.
First, authorities said, she fed him poisonous
oleander plants, sending him to the hospital with an upset
stomach. Then, she allegedly loosened the gas cap on the clothes
dryer at their home before leaving to visit a friend in San Luis
Obispo. Finally, Rodriguez spiked her husband's Gatorade with
shots of green antifreeze.
Frank Rodriguez, a special education teacher,
died on Sept. 9, 2000, with a lethal amount of antifreeze in his
body. Three years later, Angelina Rodriquez was convicted of his
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William
R. Pounders on Monday sentenced Rodriguez to death, saying that
she killed her husband in an "exceptionally cruel and callous" way
and that her guilt had been proved to "an absolute certainty."
"In the past 20 years, I have never seen a
colder heart," Pounders told the defendant.
Rodriguez, 35, begged for leniency Monday,
insisting she didn't kill her husband and at times clashing with
"I have lived my life with integrity," she said
in an hourlong speech in court. "I broke and made a few terrible,
stupid mistakes that I regret very much.... But murder is not on
Rodriguez blamed her attorney for preventing
her from testifying during her trial and said there was no way she
could have made her husband drink antifreeze.
"Are you suggesting he took it on his own?"
Judge Pounders asked incredulously.
"I know he did," Rodriguez replied. Then she
challenged the judge: "Would your wife be able to hand you a cup
Pounders denied motions for a new trial and
reduction of sentence. As he pronounced the death sentence, making
Rodriguez the 15th woman on California's death row, she let out a
heavy sigh and tapped her foot rapidly.
Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Doug
Sortino said outside court that Rodriguez blamed the slaying on a
former co-worker and fabricated evidence in a failed attempt to
get investigators to arrest him. "She's a remorseless, coldblooded
killer, and that's why she's in the position she is in today," he
Court-appointed defense attorney David Houchin
said he tried to remain objective and present the best possible
defense, despite his client's constant accusations against him.
"No one wants to have one on death row," he said outside court.
Hours after her husband's death, Rodriguez
called her insurance company, but an agent told her she wouldn't
receive any money until the coroner determined the cause of death.
She later called an investigator and said she had received an
anonymous phone call suggesting that her husband died from
antifreeze poisoning, prosecutors said. Cellphone records show
that she never received such a call, authorities said.
Police arrested Rodriguez in Paso Robles in
February 2001. "Her relentlessness in her effort to pursue her
goals was matched only by her stupidity," Sortino said Monday.
During the trial, prosecutors presented
evidence that Rodriguez had complained to a friend about her
marital problems and talked of killing her husband instead of
divorcing him in order to receive the life insurance money.
Prosecutors also charged her with soliciting someone to kill that
witness scheduled to testify against her. The jurors deadlocked on
that count but found her guilty of threatening the witness.
Witnesses also testified about the 1993 death
of Rodriguez's 13-month-old baby, who died after swallowing part
of a pacifier. The judge said Rodriguez received 60% of a $710,000
settlement in her daughter's death, after filing a civil suit
against the manufacturer. But a prosecution expert testified that
medical records indicated that Rodriguez broke the pacifier
herself and pushed part of it into her baby's throat to suffocate
her, authorities said.
Rodriguez has not been charged in connection
with her daughter's death. Los Angeles prosecutors said Monday
that they sent information on the case to investigators in Santa
Barbara County, where the death occurred. But Pounders called the
baby's death a "calculated murder" that reflected Rodriguez's
"desire to murder family members for financial gain."
Jurors convicted Rodriguez of murder in
October, along with the special allegations that she killed her
husband for financial gain and used poison as the murder weapon.
Those allegations made her eligible for the death penalty.
After returning a verdict of death in November,
during the trial's penalty phase, jurors said they were influenced
by Rodriguez's lack of remorse. Pounders echoed that sentiment.
Rodriguez apologized for lying and pointing the
finger at somebody else, but said without emotion, "I don't have
remorse for a murder I didn't do."
The case automatically goes to the California
Supreme Court on appeal.
Woman Sentenced To Death For Husband's
January 13, 2004
LOS ANGELES -- A 35-year-old woman was
sentenced to death Monday for poisoning her husband with a
combination of antifreeze and an oleander plant.
Angelina Rodriguez, of Montebello, will become
the 15th woman on California's death row unless her sentence is
altered by the state Supreme Court on appeal. Death penalty cases
are automatically appealed under state law.
In sentencing Rodriguez, Superior Court Judge
William Pounders called the murder "the coldest killing I've ever
"In the past 20 years, I've never seen a colder
heart," Pounders said. "She seemed to have no care for the agony
of her husband."
"Her conduct in administering poison to her
husband over a week's time was exceptionally cruel and callous,"
the judge said. "Her attempt to blame the murder on an innocent
third party and to persuade (a witness) not to testify against her
and later her attempt to have that witness murdered exposed an
abandoned and malignant heart uncaring for anyone but herself."
Jurors in Los Angeles found her guilty in
October of murdering her schoolteacher husband, Frank, in
September 2000 to get his $250,000 life insurance policy. A jury
of seven men and five women deliberated for about a day before
deciding last December Rodriguez should be executed. Many said
their decisions were influenced by her lack of remorse.
In a lengthy statement Monday, Rodriguez
maintained her innocence and suggested her husband poisoned
"I don't have remorse for a murder I didn't
do," she said.
Frank Rodriguez, a 41-year-old teacher for the
Los Angeles Unified School District, died Sept. 9, 2000.
Prosecutors believe that Rodriguez put enough
poisonous oleander in her husband's meals to send him to the
hospital and then killed him at home by lacing his Gatorade with
antifreeze. A medical toxicologist had testified that oleander
root, bark and flower can be converted into a highly toxic liquid
"She's a remorseless, cold-blooded killer, and
that's why she's in the position she's in," Deputy District
Attorney Doug Sortino said outside court. "Even to this day, she
refuses to accept any responsibility for what she did.
It's all about her, and that's why she killed
him ... It's all about her, and she wanted the money."
Rodriguez was also under investigation in Santa
Barbara County for the 1993 death of her 13-month-old infant
daughter, who died after swallowing part of a pacifier, Sortino
A call to Rodriguez's attorney was not
immediately returned Monday.
Angelina Rodriguez Is Many Things. Wife,
Mother, Sister, Daughter. She Is Also A Convicted Killer
By Gina Piccalo - Los Angeles Times
March 9, 2005
Chowchilla, Calif. — Angelina RODRIGUEZ furrows
her dark brow and places her hands over her eyes, smearing the
mascara and eyeliner she had so carefully applied. She has been
talking for hours, the drama of her stories escalating with every
telling, her role consistent in every one of them -- the victim.
She describes herself as a "people person," "the mothering type,"
an easy target for domineering, unfaithful men. "I'm not a violent
person," she says. "That is not who I am."
Yet Rodriguez lives on death row here at the
Central California Women's Facility, convicted of killing Frank
Rodriguez, her husband of four months, in September 2000 by
feeding him oleander soup and so much antifreeze-laced Gatorade
that, as the medical examiner noted, the chemical seeped from his
eyes. Seven years earlier, investigators say, she killed her
toddler daughter by shoving a piece of pacifier down her throat,
then successfully sued the manufacturer for its "faulty" product.
Money was the motive in both cases. In his 20 years on the bench,
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William R. Pounders, who
sentenced Rodriguez, said he'd "never seen a colder heart."
It was a sensational crime, the stuff of pulp
fiction. Court TV recently memorialized it with a moody
reenactment titled "The Persistent Wife." And Rodriguez hopes the
story's cinematic potential piques Hollywood's interest enough to
benefit her appeal, which is still years away. For investigators,
it was "a once-in-a-career case." Police had no physical evidence
linking Rodriguez to the murder. Instead, it was her bizarre
behavior that convinced them -- and a jury -- of her guilt and
ultimately resulted in a death sentence.
Rodriguez is one of 15 women on California's
death row, the nation's largest. They represent a fraction of the
state's 637 death row inmates, and most expect to die of natural
causes, not lethal injection. A woman hasn't been executed here
since 1962; a man was executed Jan. 19. Despite America's
preoccupation with serial killers and random murder, most women on
the row are like Rodriguez, sentenced for killing children and
husbands. Yet the real intrigue of this gothic tale lies in the
portrait of the woman, not the crime.
She was so capable of blending into suburban
life that even her closest relatives remember her as a caring
mother who was easily bullied. She was a romantic, they say,
despite a deeply troubled childhood and a series of bad marriages.
She cried when her dog fell ill. She was so devout that she often
wept as she prayed. She was a pretty girl whose only fault, it
seemed, was an insatiable need for affection.
With a "high average" IQ of 112, Rodriguez is
intelligent. But her doctors contend that for most of her life she
has lived amid emotional chaos, overwhelmed by self-loathing and
shame, the result of repeated incest and molestation in childhood.
Still, Rodriguez was rarely out of work and never without a
boyfriend. She joined the Air Force at 20 and later the Army
National Guard, managed a fast-food restaurant, sold insurance
door-to-door and earned a cosmetology license. She married four
times and was engaged twice -- each man, she says, more demanding
than the last.
Then there were the lawsuits. In six years, she
won about $286,000 in settlement payments. She accused a fast-food
restaurant of sexual harassment, Target of negligence after she
slipped and fell in a dressing room and Gerber Co. of product
liability after her daughter's death. When she was arrested in
February 2001, investigators say, Rodriguez was preparing to sue
her landlord for asbestos poisoning.
Sorting fact from fiction in Rodriguez's life
has long been difficult for those closest to her -- and for
Rodriguez. "She wanted a good life," says Rodriguez's sister Gigi
Colaiacovo. "But I also believe that she felt that the world owed
Rodriguez says all she ever wanted was a loving
family. Yet each time she came close to that dream, catastrophe
"When you try to sort through it all," says
Rodriguez's former neighbor Betty Hailey, "you just get tired of
trying to find the truth."
She was a 'dreamer'
Childhood, as Rodriguez recalls it, was a dark,
confusing time. She grew up in the working-class neighborhood of
Rockaway Beach in Queens, N.Y., the younger and more troublesome
of two daughters. Her father was Puerto Rican-born, a trucker and
cabdriver, who left the family. Her mother was a nurse who worked
day and night to send her daughters to Catholic schools and
provide lessons in ballet, cheerleading and basketball.
"My sister was always the hopeful romantic,"
says Colaiacovo, now a real estate comptroller in West Babylon, on
Long Island. "She was definitely the dreamer of the two."
The girls were always surrounded by relatives.
When their grandfather baby-sat them, Rodriguez and her sister
say, he molested her. The relationship began when she was 2 and
lasted through high school, resulted in an abortion and the
creation of an alter ego she named "Victoria." She told several
relatives of the abuse, she says, but nothing changed.
"She allowed it to happen," Colaiacovo says.
"She was always looking to be accepted and looking to be 'Daddy's
little girl.' " The grandfather abused the other girls in the
family, Colaiacovo says, but "we kind of stopped it when it was
supposed to be stopped."
Rodriguez says she first attempted suicide at
age 8 with some over-the-counter pain relievers. At 16, hospital
records show, she overdosed on sleeping pills and was hospitalized
for depression. At 19, she married and divorced a neighborhood boy
named Hector Gonzalez. After that, she says, she started "running
... to find my place."
She moved to Florida and enlisted in the Air
Force. She fell in love with Tom Fuller, a good-looking, athletic
"Mr. Right," while both were based in Colorado. Within three
months, she was pregnant. They got married and moved to Vandenberg
Air Force Base near Lompoc. Two years later, Rodriguez was raising
her daughter Autumn and her premature newborn, Alicia. The baby's
first four months were spent in and out of the hospital with
several health problems, including bradycardia, an abnormally slow
heartbeat. Yet Rodriguez remembers this as the happiest time of
"She really seemed to be as grounded as I had
ever seen her," Colaiacovo says. "If she could have had any job
she did perfectly, it was as a mother."
Inside the marriage, however, the relationship
was disintegrating. Rodriguez became especially protective of the
girls. In an interview, Fuller says that she became preoccupied
with their afterlife. "They had to be christened," he says. "
'Just in case anything happened.' "
On the morning of Sept. 18, 1993, when Fuller
was out of town on business, Alicia choked to death on the plastic
nipple of her pacifier. Rodriguez told police she found the child
dead in her crib, the pacifier's shield lying on the floor.
"They're going to pay for this," she said of the pacifier's
manufacturer, Gerber, according to police reports.
Weeks later, Fuller learned that Rodriguez had
purchased a $50,000 life insurance policy for the child. But it
wasn't until the investigation of Frank Rodriguez's murder that
Fuller recalled a waitress' warning, months before Alicia died,
that the pacifier had been recalled because the nipple sometimes
separated from the shield. That memory still plagues him.
"There's times when all I want to do is see her
dead," says Fuller of his ex-wife. "Then there are times I'm just
not 100% sold on it. And then maybe I'm in denial that I could
marry someone who could have done something like that."
Colaiacovo still can't believe her sister
killed Alicia. Just the memory of those accusations makes her cry.
"There is no way," she says. "That is ridiculous. I would stake my
life on it." Colaiacovo sat through every day of her sister's
trial and sentencing, heard the wiretapped recordings of her
sister plotting to kill a witness, heard the judge call her
"She really is a good person," she says. "I
know that sounds ironic. She wouldn't do anything to hurt anybody.
If she did, in fact, do it, who knows what she was thinking? She
could never do something like that. She's not smart enough. I
can't imagine what would possess her."
During an August interview, Rodriguez shed no
tears as she recalled her daughter's death. "If I'd wanted to kill
my daughter," she said. "I could have just let her die from the
In an October letter for this article, however,
her tone was tender. "I love my girls more than anything or
anyone," she wrote. "They are my breath, my heart, my life. I had
never felt so alive as I did with them. Finally, I had the love I
wanted." As for grief, she wrote, "it's not that I don't feel it.
Hell, sometimes it's screaming out so loud inside me, I get sick."
Deception as a way of life
After the 1993 death of Alicia, Rodriguez's
world shifted radically. She and Fuller divorced. They settled
their case against Gerber for $750,000; Rodriguez got about
$250,000, according to court records. She bought a house, a car
and a boat.
Lying became a way of life, according to
friends, relatives and investigators. Friends say Rodriguez
started telling people she was pregnant with twins, even though
most of them knew she'd had an operation that left her infertile.
When the babies never arrived, she told them she had fallen down a
flight of stairs and miscarried. When she totaled her car, she
said a boyfriend drove her off a cliff.
She got a cosmetology license, married a
trucker named Don Combs, and then divorced him a few months later,
she says, because he was too possessive. She joined the Army
National Guard, fell in love with another man, who she says
deserted her after she loaned him $20,000.
"She became flighty again," Colaiacovo says.
Despite the settlement, Rodriguez always had a hard-luck story for
her family, she says. She always needed money. "She is the boy who
cried wolf," Colaiacovo says. "I definitely lost trust in her."
Betty Hailey met Rodriguez around 1997 at a
school-bus stop. Rodriguez had just put her well-landscaped,
four-bedroom home in Paso Robles on the market, a house she bought
with the settlement money from Alicia's death. Hailey bought the
house, and soon the two women became friends. She was impressed by
Rodriguez's lifestyle -- the cars, the clothes, the furniture.
"Whatever she wanted, she bought," Hailey says. They prayed
together. They baby-sat for one another. Rodriguez took Hailey on
a cruise to Mexico. And when Rodriguez married Frank, Hailey was
her matron of honor.
Yet Hailey says she never really trusted her
impulsive friend. She wouldn't leave her husband alone with
Rodriguez because she suspected her neighbor might try to seduce
him. When Rodriguez found out Hailey's son was single, she invited
herself to his Washington, D.C., home for Thanksgiving. "I prayed
with her and I counseled with her, but to tell you the truth, I
didn't know that much about her," Hailey says.
Rodriguez has been diagnosed with depression
and anxiety disorders several times since childhood. After her
arrest, doctors concluded that she also suffered symptoms of manic
and borderline personality disorders but was competent to stand
trial. During jailhouse interviews with forensic psychiatrist
William Vicary, transcripts show that Rodriguez told him, "I have
remorse in my heart.... I'm sorry for what happened to Frank." But
she wouldn't acknowledge any guilt.
"If I admit responsibility, then I'll lose
everything. I lose all hope," she told Vicary.
"She'd lose hope of ever having a chance for
some kind of freedom or life," Vicary said in a September
interview. "And she cannot stand she might lose what little
affection and support she has from her own family.... That's all
she's got left."
Joking about murder
The courtship of Angelina and Frank Rodriguez
was so brief it shocked their friends and relatives. They met in
February 2000 at Angel Gate Academy in San Luis Obispo, a boot
camp for wayward youth operated by the California National Guard
and the Los Angeles Unified School District. They were platoon
sergeants when Angelina accused another staffer of sexual
misconduct with a student. No one but Frank believed her. Soon
they were dating.
Frank was a devout Christian who insisted they
save sex for marriage; Angelina says they spent a lot of time
praying together. She wasn't in love, but Frank was smart,
grounded and loved Autumn.
On the surface, they had a lot in common. The
oldest son of six children, Frank also grew up in a chaotic
family, moving from Connecticut to Texas and finally settling in
central Illinois in the 1970s. His father, Jose Francisco
Rodriguez, was a doctor and, relatives say, a jealous, abusive man
with a drug and alcohol problem, who later deserted the family.
His mother, Janet Baker, was a lab technician who raised her
Relatives say Frank was a quiet, trusting man
who took responsibility for his siblings. He left home to join the
Navy, married a hometown girl, earned a teaching degree from
Southern Illinois University and tried to finish law school.
Eventually he became a teacher with an affinity for troubled kids.
After 14 years, his marriage to Judy Adams
ended, devastating Frank. Baker says the settlement left him
penniless but desperate for a fresh start and a family of his own.
He joined a Pentecostal church and stopped drinking and smoking.
He became a rape hotline counselor, she says, even inviting one
victim into his home who ultimately tried to stab him. Later,
Frank moved to San Luis Obispo and became engaged to another
teacher at Angel Gate, but, Baker says, she fell in love with
someone else and broke it off.
Then he met Angelina. "He was looking for
love," Baker says. "Someone who would love him, for him."
Frank and Angelina exchanged vows in an April
2000 ceremony at his small church in Paso Robles. Within days,
they moved to Montebello into a house they could barely afford,
given Frank's new teaching job at a local middle school. For a
while, life was stable. But Angelina says Frank became intolerably
possessive and overly strict with Autumn. He insisted on being the
sole breadwinner. "He was everything," she says. "I was
nothing.... I just wanted out."
Frank's family says the trouble came from
Angelina. "He was so patient," says Frank's sister Carmen
Pipitone. "He would have given her anything."
In July, at Angelina's urging, Frank bought a
$250,000 life insurance policy for himself and made her sole
benefactor. And, as her friends would later testify at her trial,
Angelina starting talking about killing Frank. "Well, he's got a
life insurance policy," she told one friend, according to
prosecutor Doug Sortino's opening statement. "I ought to just kill
him and get it over with." Everyone thought she was kidding. They
joked about murder methods and told the story of a woman arrested
for using oleander to poison her husband, testimony shows.
"Whatever you do," one friend said, according to court
transcripts, "don't use oleander." They talked about some vicious
neighbor dogs who deserved to die by antifreeze-soaked hot dogs.
"Why would anybody eat something with
antifreeze?" Angelina asked, according to prosecutors. "Don't you
know?" said one friend. "It tastes sweet. It says so right on the
In August, Angelina says, she started an affair
with Matt Morones, an ex-con and old friend from Paso Robles. She
says she swiped one of Frank's paychecks, hid the money and made
plans to live with Morones' family. Around the same time,
testimony shows, Frank found natural gas leaking from their dryer
during a weekend Angelina was away.
On Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2000, Frank Rodriguez
woke from a nap feeling ill -- again. Angelina later told police
that it had been days since he'd felt like himself. He'd had a
headache and couldn't keep his food down. In fact, she told them,
he'd come home two months earlier with similar symptoms,
suspicious that someone at school was trying to poison him, and
they had rushed him to the hospital.
This time, Angelina dragged him to the
emergency room again. According to police, she told the doctor, "I
don't know what's wrong. I've tried everything I know. My mom was
a nurse. I tried. It didn't work." Food poisoning, the doctor
said. Go home, rest and drink lots of fluids, especially Gatorade.
So, Angelina says, she put her husband to bed
and for the next two days she and her daughter Autumn nursed Frank
with Gatorade and soup, every four hours. At about 3 a.m.
Saturday, Angelina says, she woke up to find Frank face down on
the bedroom floor, dead.
Days later, she told Frank's mother she was
pregnant with twins -- a story she'd told friends after the death
of her daughter. "She wanted to know if I would help her out with
her maternity stuff, monetarily," Baker says. "I said, 'Angelina,
you bring me a report that says you truly are pregnant and a DNA
report that says that it's my grandson and then we'll talk.' "
At the funeral, friends and relatives noticed
that Angelina looked relaxed, even content. She was telling people
she suspected Frank had been poisoned by a vengeful co-worker at
Angel Gate. In the limo ride to the cemetery, Frank's sister
Shirley Coers asked: "How can someone just poison somebody?"
"There's lots of things you can use to poison people," Angelina
told her, according to Coers' testimony. "Botanical things.
Oleander, for example."
Investigators say if it wasn't for Angelina's
tenacity and greed, they may never have determined what killed
Frank. County toxicologists tested Frank's blood for all the
common poisons -- PCP, heroin, methamphetamine, arsenic, cyanide
-- but found none. And without a cause of death, police told her
the insurance company wouldn't release any money to Angelina.
Almost immediately after Frank's death,
according to investigators' transcripts, she started referencing
oleander and antifreeze. "It could be anything," she told
investigators. "It could be the flowers on the road.... What the
heck are those? You know, they grow in the middle of the highway?"
She claimed to have received an anonymous call
on her cellphone from someone who knew how Frank died. "All I
heard was, um, 'Ask them about antifreeze,' " she told them. "Does
that help, you think? If they test [Frank] and say, 'Yeah, it's
there, maybe that'll be enough for them to say, 'This is the cause
of death.' "
Toxicologists took her recommendation. They
determined Frank had received a massive dose of antifreeze four to
six hours before he died. Angelina was arrested a few weeks later.
Investigators never determined how Angelina got
the poisons into Frank. He had been dead for two days before they
searched the house. They found oleander plants within arm's reach
of her back patio but no antifreeze.
"Just the way we had to work the case, we had
to lie to her," says Los Angeles County Sheriff's Det. Brian
Steinwand. "We had no witnesses. Our only witness was her.... She
provided us with the poisons. [County toxicologists] check for
standard ones, but they don't check for oleander and antifreeze.
We knew she was the only one alive that knew what poisons were
Tears and excuses
As Angelina recalls Frank's last days now,
there are no signs of grief. She says he committed suicide because
she wanted a divorce. The marriage was so bad, she says, she
started mixing painkillers and alcohol, spending long afternoons
alone, sobbing. All of this, she says, points to her innocence.
"How could I have gotten all that green goop
into this intelligent man?" she asks. "I might have been
depressed. I might have been sad. But I'm not an idiot."
But if she thought Frank committed suicide, why
did she tell police he had been poisoned by a vengeful co-worker?
Her answer: It was only in retrospect that she realized how
desperate Frank had become.
If she was innocent, why did she try to arrange
the murder of a witness in her case, suggesting the killer use
"what I killed my husband with ... antifreeze"? Her answer: She
was overmedicated, incoherent and didn't know what she was saying.
What about testimony from friends claiming she
talked about killing Frank? Her answer: All lies.
And why did she take out a $50,000 life
insurance policy on the 13-month-old just days before the child's
death? The insurance money was a college fund, she says.
When the line of questioning creeps
uncomfortably close to incriminating her, she stops talking and
stares at the wall. She rubs her temples and sighs loudly. Then
she puts both hands on the table and says, "I did not kill my
husband. I did not kill my daughter. I'm so tired of feeling
Most everyone from Rodriguez's old life has cut
ties with her. Only Rodriguez's stepfather, Jose Rivera, who has
paid for her paralegal studies, keeps in touch. Still, for this
article, she provided a long list of old friends and close
relatives in the hopes that they would attest to her character.
"Maybe," she says, "if they hear you aren't really looking to
prove my innocence, they will relax."
Today Rodriguez has nothing but time. She can't
afford an attorney. But even if she could, there's not much one
could do for her now. The California Supreme Court won't even
consider the automatic appeal of her case -- which is required by
law after a death sentence -- until 2009.
Rodriguez's conviction has devastated almost
everyone close to her. Her mother, Anita Rivera, died of emphysema
and pulmonary disease soon after Rodriguez was sentenced to death.
Fuller says their daughter, Autumn, who is now 13, is tortured by
the possibility that she may inadvertently have helped her mother
kill Frank. She recently told Rodriguez she never wants to see her
Colaiacovo says she broke off contact with her
sister after Rodriguez demanded costly care packages -- a
television, a VCR and expensive perfume. This, she says, after the
family drained its savings to fund her defense. Still, Colaiacovo
struggles with guilt over not rescuing her little sister from
their grandfather. Rodriguez was never equipped to handle the
harsh truths of the world, she says.
"I don't think she had a true grip of reality,"
Colaiacovo says. "I think she lived in a dream world. I think she
made up stories and believed them. Truly believed them."