At the Holy Cross Hospital emergency room, on Oct. 17, 1997, Irma Rodriguez told detectives her husband had raised a handgun to her chest, and then to his own body, and declared, “Someone is going to die tonight.”
The two had been quarrelling over flowers sent to their home, Rodriguez said, and a struggle over the gun ensued. A bullet tore through her left hand at point-blank range. She fled one way, to a neighbor’s home, and her husband — an off-duty Chicago cop — fled another with responding police officers on his heels.
It was his 38th birthday.
“Lose me or I’ll lose my job,” he begged of his fellow officers, according to court files. “Forget you ever saw me.”
Irma Rodriguez failed to show in court or make an official statement with detectives, the court record shows. Her husband was acquitted of attempted first degree murder in 1998 after his attorney argued that the gun was fired accidentally.
Thirteen years later, for the death of the same woman—his wife Irma, a mother of three, who stuck by Norberto until a couple years ago, police records show. On June 1, 2009, Midlothian police found her body in the trunk of her car with multiple gunshot wounds. She was days away from finalizing her divorce.
Following the birthday shooting, Norberto Rodriguez lost his job as a Chicago Police officer, and he has been on the opposite side of law enforcement since. Police records show he blamed Irma for his firing and that the couple, though estranged near the time of her death, continued to quarrel physically.
In April 2003, while under electronic monitoring and charged with conspiracy to traffic heroin, he was arrested and accused of attacking Irma inside their home while their teenage daughter watched. Irma told police that Norberto twisted her collar, as if to choke her, and pushed her face with an open hand. During a search of his home, Oak Forest police officers found a “Chicago Special Operations” badge, a Social Security card bearing another name and a small bag of cocaine, according to the police report.
Court records show that the charges were eventually dropped and Irma paid part of his bail for release.
Two years prior, an unidentified woman called Chicago Police to say that Norberto was unconscious in his car with a loaded gun in the glove box. He was woken and arrested for possessing an unregistered firearm and other police gear, but the charges were later dropped.
He was later convicted on federal drug charges, sentenced to 52 months in prison and released in 2007.
Rodriguez was arrested again in late 2010, nearly 18 months after his wife was found dead in the trunk of her car. According to a statement from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, there were no signs of forced entry into the Rodriguez home on the 15000 block of Alameda Avenue and neighbors, who said the couple fought often, reported hearing “popping sounds” on the night Irma disappeared.
Prosecutors have alleged that telephone records place Irma and Norberto Rodriguez inside and near the home within the time frame that police believed she was killed in her garage, where discharged bullet fragments and other forensic evidence was recovered.
Prosecutors also said Rodriguez was aware that his wife had withdrawn most of the money in the family bank account shortly before her death.
Bail was set at $5 million. He pled not guilty.
denied a legal request by Patch to obtain copies of police reports related to the latest charges, citing the ongoing case.
Rodriguez’s next pretrial hearing on the charges of first degree murder and concealment of a homicide death is set for Jan. 12, 2012, at the Markham courthouse.