A man accused of killing a teenage girl at a former religious attraction whose 50-foot cross serves as a city landmark pleaded guilty Wednesday to a murder charge.
Francisco Cruz, of Waterbury, will face 55 years in prison under a plea agreement when he's sentenced June 17, prosecutor Eva Lenczewski said. Cruz, 20, had faced a capital felony charge that could have carried a death sentence.
Cruz confessed to killing his 16-year-old friend Chloe Ottman at Holy Land USA last July 15, prosecutors said. He told police he raped, choked and fatally stabbed the girl when she rejected his advances as they drank at the abandoned 18-acre site on a hillside overlooking Waterbury.
Cruz told police he and the girl had been friends for about two years and that night they met at a local shopping mall and decided to go drinking at Holy Land, which featured a Hollywood-style sign and replicas of Bethlehem and Jerusalem made from scrap wood, chicken wire and other materials.
Cruz told police the girl struck him after he made sexual advances toward her.
"I got so mad at her. I hate when people hit me on the face," he told police, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. "So after she hit me and as she tried to get up, I grabbed her and put her in a chokehold."
He then stabbed her in the neck repeatedly with a folding knife and threw her body in the woods, the affidavit said. Her body was discovered two days later, a day after her parents reported her missing.