FAIRFIELD — After more than two years in jail and two jury trials, a man accused of stabbing and killing a Fairfield woman in her home in 2003 was found not guilty Wednesday of murder charges.
After the verdicts were announced, Ricardo Cruz hugged his defense attorney and then his parents.
Cruz, 37, a Navy veteran, had no criminal record when he was arrested in 2010 at his home in Santa Rosa and charged with murder. His arrest came after cold-case investigators reopened the case, got a DNA sample from Cruz and matched it to a minute piece of flesh found under one of Kathryn Vitagliano’s fingernails.
Vitagliano, 55, was found dead on the living room of her Robin Drive home on the night of Nov. 26, 2003, a few feet from a Christmas tree. A homemade pumpkin pie she had been baking for Thanksgiving the next day was still in the oven. The recently retired psychiatric technician from Napa State Hospital was face down in a pool of blood and had been stabbed nearly a dozen times.
Cruz is an ex-boyfriend of one of Vitagliano’s adult daughters. He had been at the home a few weeks before the killing prompting his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Tommy Barrett, to argue his client’s DNA may have ended up under Vitagliano’s fingernail because he may have been typing on her computer or may have sneezed on a mirror in the home.
Another murder trial for Cruz ended last year with a deadlocked jury splitting 8-4 in favor of acquittal.
Cruz did not testify at either trial. Before his arrest, he told investigators he had been home alone sick in bed at the time of Vitagliano’s death.
After jurors left the courtroom, Judge Peter B. Foor ordered Cruz to pay $80,000 to the Public Defender’s Office for its costs. Barrett objected to Foor’s imposition of the fees. The matter will be considered further at an April 2 hearing.
Cruz was ordered released from custody. Before the start of the retrial, the ex-girlfriend went to court and obtained a restraining order against Cruz.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.