After Marta Rodriguez suddenly disappeared in May 1989, her son, Hansel, was left in the care of his father, Jose Rodriguez-Cruz. Hansel soon began to figure out what really happened to his mother as he grew older. NBC News’ ‘Dateline: A Haunting Stretch of Road’ shines a light on two cold cases that involved Jose — the murders of Marta Rodriguez and Pamela Butler. Jose was eventually convicted of both murders, bringing a sense of closure to Hansel, who learned what happened to his mother. So, if you’re curious to find out more about him, here’s what we know.
Who is Hansel Rodriguez?
Born to Marta and Jose Rodriguez, Hansel Rodriguez was only 4-years-old when his mother seemingly vanished into thin air in 1989. When Hansel was young, he was told that Marta had fallen in with the wrong crowd and left the family. While he initially believed it, Hansel knew something was off and that his father was responsible. Jose was abusive and had a violent temper. Hansel said that his father fed him a false narrative regarding what happened to Marta.
However, Hansel also knew he had to keep that to himself, later saying, “In order to survive, he had to see me as someone who wouldn’t be a threat to his freedom — a threat to his false narrative.” As it would later turn out, Jose killed Marta in 1989 in what the authorities thought was a bid to prevent her from testifying against him. A few months prior, Jose was seen dragging a bound Marta down a street. The case was dismissed when Marta failed to show up at court.
Furthermore, Marta had confided in her co-workers and a police officer that she feared for her life. But her sudden disappearance was only solved about three decades later when Jose was implicated in another murder — that of Pamela Butler’s. Eventually, he admitted to killing Marta but maintained that it was accidental, saying she had ingested pills for migraine. Jose stated that he later buried her body alongside a highway and was helped by a friend.
While Marta’s remains were found in 1991, they were only identified in 2018 after the authorities took another look at Jose. The remains were confirmed to be Marta’s by testing against a sample from Hansel. Jose was then sentenced to 40 years in prison in addition to another sentence he was already serving for Pamela’s murder. Over the years, Hansel had become friends with Pamela’s brother, Derrick. He later talked about growing up around evil as a child, referring to his abusive father. Hansel added, “It’s hard not to lose faith in humanity when you’ve been exposed to that kind of thing, but this certainly helps restore it.”
Where is Hansel Rodriguez Now?
Before Jose’s sentencing, he addressed Hansel, saying, “I want to say I’m so sorry for the pain I caused you and Marta. I was being selfish. No matter how many words I say, I will never reach the depth of your pain. I think of you and your mother every day. I’m going to ask you to forgive me.” Later on, Hansel stated that he once saw his father hold a gun to the head of another woman he was married to.
Ultimately, Hansel said he forgave his father and added, “Now, nobody else will have to worry about meeting the same fate. So, I’m glad that you know, despite him being my father, he’s off the streets for good.” Otherwise, Hansel has chosen to keep his life private, and not much is known about what he does. From what we can tell, his last known location was in Virginia.