Judge Rules on Motions in Rondon Murder Trial

Luis R. Rondon, former King of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s East Kingdom, was expelled from the Society a year ago this month after his arrest in connection with the murder of Deborah Waldsinger.

Rondon’s attorneys entered not guilty pleas on his behalf to charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, felonies; and misdemeanor weapon possession this past November.

Prosecutors believe Rondon used a framing hammer to beat 32-year-old Deborah Waldinger to death on October 7, 2019. He then traveled to California to attend the Great Western War sponsored by the Kingdom of Caid, a regional chapter of the SCA, and was arrested by Taft (CA) police on October 11 at the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area where the event was in progress. He was extradited to New York.

The victim, Deborah Waldinger, was also active in the SCA, as well as in the Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia.

Since then, defense attorney Dennis J. Ring has filed motions trying to free his client on technical grounds, or convince the court to rule out some of the evidence the prosecution wants to present at trial.

In June, Judge Craig Brown of the Orange County (NY) court handed down rulings on eight of these motions.

Ring’s first motion asked the court to dismiss the indictment due to alleged defects in the Grand Jury proceedings. These included a claim that witness testimony stating Rondon was having an extramarital affair with Waldinger should not have been permitted:

Regarding testimony, the defendant takes exception to the People’s inclusion as a witness April Cruz, the co-worker of the deceased victim, characterizing the same as impermissible hearsay testimony for which no legally cognizable exception applies. The defendant states that the witness’s testimony was “highly inflammatory” because it related to an extramarital affair that defendant was allegedly having with the victim. Over the course of four days, the People presented fifteen witnesses, who testified as to their personal knowledge of the case as well as, where appropriate, their professional experiences in the fields of criminal investigation and forensic pathology.

… In opposition, the People …argue that their inclusion of the homicide victim’s statements to her co-worker were both appropriate and probative of her state of mind (specifically, that her intent to end the extramarital relationship with defendant and thus, by extrapolation, the defendant’s motive to kill her).

Judge Brown said in his decision that the court found no defects in the indictment.

The court did grant the defendant’s motion for the release of all transcripts of the testimony of persons who testified before the Grand Jury.

The court rejected additional claims that the Grand Jury procedure was defective, saying: “[The] Court finds that the People properly instructed the Grand Jury on the law and only permitted those grand jurors who heard all the evidence to vote on the matter… Those nineteen Grand Jurors then deliberated and voted 19-0 to indict defendant on all three counts of the Indictment.”

A motion to suppress the defendant’s statements to law enforcement was granted to the extent that a hearing was ordered to determine the admissibility of statements allegedly made by the defendant.

Likewise, the ruling on another motion, “to suppress the use of any evidence obtained as the result of a nonconsensual seizure of his cellular telephone on October 10, 2019 in Bakersfield, California by a New Windsor police detective” was deferred until a hearing could determine the admissibility of physical evidence allegedly obtained from the defendant.

The court ruled against defendant’s motion to suppress physical evidence obtained through multiple search warrants, which the judge found were based upon probable cause and supported by appropriate affidavits.

The defense’s motion to preclude the cross-examination of the defendant as to prior bad acts was granted to the extent that a hearing will be held immediately prior to trial “to determine which, if any, bad acts or convictions may be used as impeachment in the event that the defendant elects to testify at trial or as substantive proof of any material issue in the case…”

The court granted three other motions, to compel the District Attorney to provide the defense with any exculpatory evidence, ordering the mutual sharing of outstanding discovery material, and allowing the defense to file further motions as provided under the law.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for October 23.

Rondon DNA Sample Sought

The district attorney requested a controlled DNA swab from Luis Rondon, former King of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s East Kingdom, at the latest hearing in Orange County (NY) court on December 6. He wants the New York State Police forensic lab to compare Rondon’s DNA profile to evidence found at the scene of Deborah Waldinger’s death and elsewhere.

Rondon, who was Waldinger’s boyfriend, is accused of killing her with a framing hammer. He faces felony charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter as well as misdemeanor weapon possession.

Rondon’s lawyer opposed the DNA request, saying prosecutors have not shown probable cause that a sample from Rondon will yield relevant evidence.

Waldinger’s body was found in her New Windsor, NY apartment on October 9. Police arrested Rondon a few days later in California, where he had traveled for an SCA event.

The Middletown (NY) Times-Herald Record reported the prosecuting attorney’s description of the physical evidence gathered by investigators:

On Friday, in court before Judge Craig Brown, Milza revealed that lab testing of bloodstains from gloves police located in a trash can about 30 feet from where Rondon parked his car at Newark International Airport showed DNA consistent with three people, with Waldinger, 32, as the major contributor. Bloodstains on sneakers police found in the trash outside Rondon’s house on Quassaick Avenue in New Windsor also matched Waldinger’s DNA profile, Milza said.

Officials have security video of Rondon buying a box of garbage bags, and an identical box was found within three feet of Waldinger’s body, he said. Milza said investigators swabbed bloodstains from a bathroom wall next to a light switch, and a Nov. 21 lab report determined that the DNA matched Waldinger and a male.

“I can think of no more relevant evidence,” Milza told the judge.

… Milza [later] said Rondon’s Google searches and website visits in the days after the slaying included “can they track your movements with the Galaxy S10,” the type of phone Rondon owned; “what destroys DNA;” “can bleach destroy DNA;” and “if you want to get away with murder use a special detergent.”

The judge gave the defense attorney time to file further arguments against the DNA sample. He also heard the defendant’s bail application, at set bail at $2.5 million cash or $7.5 million bond.

Rondon will return to court on February 3.

Rondon Pleads Not Guilty in Murder Case

Luis Rondon, former King of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s East Kingdom, was back in Orange County (NY) court November 8, where his attorneys entered a not guity plea to charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, felonies; and misdemeanor weapon possession.

Prosecutors believe that Rondon used a framing hammer to beat 32-year-old Deborah Waldinger to death on October 7. He then traveled to California to attend the Great Western War sponsored by the Kingdom of Caid, a regional chapter of the SCA, and was arrested by Taft (CA) police on October 11 at the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area where the event was in progress. He was extradited to New York.

The Middletown (NY) Times-Herald Record reports that Senior Assistant Dictrict Attorney Michael Milza described physical evidence from the case and the medical examiner’s findings at the hearing:

Waldinger left her job in Middletown about 1 a.m. on Oct. 7, her usual time, and at 2:08 a.m. she texted a friend that she was home, also typical, Milza said.

At 1 a.m. on Oct. 7, Milza said, Rondon is on video at WalMart buying items including a white Tyvek-type coverall suit and several bottles of bleach. Two hours later he returned to the store and bought cleaning and first-aid items, Milza said.

Waldinger was due to work on Oct. 7, but failed to show.

Early on Oct. 8, Milza said, Rondon flew to California, leaving his car at Newark International Airport. Rondon went to a medieval history and reenactment event in Taft, Calif. Detectives who tracked him down in California observed a cut on his forehead, which had been visible in the 3 a.m. WalMart video, and cuts on his hands and chest, Milza said.

Rondon was later extradited back to New York.

Milza said police got warrants for Rondon’s cars and home. In the car at the airport, he said, investigators found a number of distinctive-looking black rubber gloves with white interiors in the backseat, and more of the gloves, along with cloth and other items, in a nearby trash can. Some of the items from the can tested positive for the presence of blood, Milza said.

In a second vehicle, he said, police found receipts showing that Rondon’s credit card was used Oct. 1 to buy a 50-gallon bin and a box of large, industrial-type garbage bags. A box matching that description was found next to Waldinger in her apartment, Milza told the judge.

Milza said the medical examiner found “at least 12 blows, and possibly another one or two” had been inflicted on Waldinger.

The prosecutor asked the judge to deny bail. The judge scheduled a December 6 hearing where the defense attorneys can make formal bail arguments, meantime, Rondon remains in custody awaiting trial.

Rondon Arraigned

Luis Rondon, former king of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s East Kingdom, was arraigned in Orange County (NY) on October 25, charged with second degree murder for the fatal beating of a New Windsor, NY woman. The judge entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.

The victim, Deborah Waldinger, was also active in the SCA, as well as in the Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia. Police believe Waldinger died October 7 of blunt force trauma. A maintenance worker found the body inside her apartment two days later.

By then, Rondon had traveled to California to attend the Great Western War sponsored by the Kingdom of Caid, a regional chapter of the SCA. On October 11, Taft (CA) police arrested him at the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area where the event was in progress. He was extradited to New York.

The SCA expelled Rondon following his arrest.

[Rondon’s attorney] asked that the jail hold Rondon in protective custody because he is an officer with the MTA Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority. The only words Rondon spoke during arraignment were to tell the judge he is a peace officer, and to confirm the agency’s name with “yes, your honor.”

The judge said he would make a note about the request on the commitment paperwork.

Waldinger’s family told a reporter that she met Rondon several years ago through their mutual interest in medieval groups, and had moved to New Windsor from Long Island about two years ago to be near him.