Q: Back in 1978, two CHP officers were shot and killed on the freeway. The shooter was Luis Rodriguez. What ever happened to him, and his girlfriend and partner in crime, Margaret Klaess? Did he ever go to trial?
A: Luis V. Rodriguez was convicted of the Dec. 22, 1978 murders of California Highway Patrol officers William “Mike” Freeman, 35, and Roy P. Blecher, 50.
He initially was sentenced to death, but his sentence was later reduced to life without parole. Now 59 years old, Rodriguez is incarcerated at R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.
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According to stories in The Sacramento Bee, Officers Freeman and Blecher were shot and killed following a traffic stop along eastbound Interstate 80 in West Sacramento. Both officers were shot execution-style, Blecher with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Rodriguez, then 23, was arrested on Christmas Eve 1978 along with Margaret Klaess, his 18-year-old girlfriend. Klaess, as part of a plea agreement, turned state’s evidence and testified at trial that Rodriguez had single-handedly overpowered and disarmed the officers while she remained huddled in the car that she and Rodriguez had stolen the day before. Klaess served two years in prison for aiding and abetting Rodriguez.
Rodriguez’s seven-month trial turned into a 16-year ordeal that included a number of appeals based on the claim that juror misconduct and a judge’s pressuring of the jury deprived him of a fair trial. Although his sentence was reduced from death to life in prison, the courts upheld his conviction.
The section of Interstate 80 linking Davis and Sacramento was officially named the Blecher-Freeman Memorial Causeway in 1994.
Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.