"All I want is the truth to come out,” said Cruz, in an exclusive on-camera interview with WHAG’S Merris Badcock. “All I want is for somebody to finally admit that the evidence has been there all this time. Why are they so adamant against admitting that they made a mistake?"
Cruz was convicted of murder, arson and child abuse after police said she set a fire to her home on
She was sentenced to 36 years for those crimes and related charges, and is currently awaiting transportation to a state prison. For now, Cruz spends her days pouring over evidence and thinking about her children, while at the
Cruz believes in order to clear her name and get her children back, she finally needs to tell her side of the story. She never testified at her own trial.
"You know I really don't care who believes me and who doesn't,” said Cruz. “Because at the end of the day, only two people really matter, and that's God and my son. They know I didn't set that fire, and one day the truth will come out,” she said, tears starting to fall down her face. “And when it does, everyone can keep their 'I'm sorrys.' I don't want them. It will never bring back my son.”
“The fire was a living thing…”
Cruz told WHAG in detail her account of what happened that fateful day. During the course of the interview, Cruz disputed many claims made by those who helped convict her.
When asked why she told rescuers she had four kids, instead of five, Cruz said that she was thinking of the four oldest children in the bedroom, and had forgotten to count her newborn baby, who was already outside when she ran back into the house the first time.
“They said I blacked out. And when I came to, I was looking for my kids. And [someone] asked me, ‘How many kids do you have?’, and I said, ‘four.’ I knew my daughter, she was out the front door, and so I said four. That’s who was back there, that I knew I had not gotten out,” Cruz said, recalling the back bedroom where four of her five children, including Christian, had been napping when the fire started.
She maintains that she ran back in after Christian within seconds of realizing he was missing, disputing claims that she didn't try to save her son.
"Where’s Chris? So I ran back into the house,” Cruz said, breaking down as she recalls the fire. “It was so black. You couldn’t see nothing. All I can remember is screaming his name,” she said. “You don’t know which way is which, cause it's so black, and the sounds are horrible. It's like the fire was a living thing, and all if can remember is screaming his name, over and over."
Cruz alleges a firefighter pulled her out of the house, and she was never able to locate Christian.
Cruz says prosecutors failed to define a motive for the crime during her trial, disputing claims that she set the fire to get attention from her husband Ben Dominguez, or to escape her so-called "hell on earth."
“Starting a fire? What kind of attention would that gain? It makes no sense to me whatsoever,” she said, throwing her hands in the air.
Prosecutors also alleged that she called Christian “El Diablo,” and presented this as evidence when reports of child abuse or a specific dislike towards Christian were suggested.
“Them saying I called my son Diablo? I did not call my son the Devil. It’s Diablito,” said Cruz, insisting it was a term of endearment.
During the trial, it was revealed that Cruz taught herself Spanish, and used by both prosecutors and her defense attorneys to attest to her level of intelligence. “It means like, daredevil, devil maker, attitude. [Christian] would climb on top of stuff, not scared. Bugs, spiders, he’d come running through the house, ‘Mommy bug, mommy bug!’ and it’d be a big old spider,” Cruz recounted, laughing and crying over the details.
“Where is the gas can that I bought?”
Cruz thinks the most damning piece of evidence brought against her is the fact that she bought a can of gas the same morning as the fire, gas she claims was purchased to put in her car.
"You know what the sad thing is, is that I told them I got that gas can. If I had anything to hide, why am I telling you? Doctors, the nurses, the EMTs, the officers,” Cruz said, counting off each group on her fingers, “Everyone testified to the same thing, there was no gas on me. There was no smell of gas whatsoever, on my clothes, on my person. And these people had me in their arms."
The gas can Cruz bought the day of the fire was never found. Investigators were never able to recover any gas can that they were able to link directly to the fire.
Cruz also says burns she suffered that day are indicators she tried to save Christian, not evidence of murder.
“When I opened the screen door back up, the flames came back,” said Cruz, noting that she received her first burn marks after dropping her newborn baby onto the porch, and running back inside. “So I threw my arm up,” she said, throwing her forearm over eyes, and clenching her fist. “They're saying these were flash burns, and that I had burns all down the side of my face and just on the right side of my body. I said, ‘That's not true," she said, pointing to burn marks on both arms.
Cruz also noted that her MedStar doctor, where she was later transported after receiving initial medical attention at
“I know somebody out there knows…”
As for who set the fire, Cruz has her suspicions, but contends ultimately she was just a victim of circumstance.
"Why wouldn't [the person who set the fire] have done it when my kids weren't there? Why would you put my kids in jeopardy? I would much rather it have been me than them. I would have gladly given my life, for my son's life,” she said.
Cruz thinks anyone pinning the crime on her is simply ignoring the facts of the case, and has made a public plea for witnesses to come forward.
"I know somebody out there knows more than what they're saying,” she said, wiping tear stained hands over her blue jumpsuit. “That's really why I’m doing this, because I’d like somebody to come forward, and tell what they seen that day. I know somebody had to been driving down there that day."
Part Two of Cruz’s story will air Friday on WHAG