Murder at Holy Land, USA
The phrase “theme park” probably brings to mind images of merry anthropomorphic animals or memories of rides with stomach-dropping plunges. In 1950's Waterbury, Connecticut, a devout Roman Catholic by the name of John Baptist Greco dreamed of something different. His park, Holy Land USA, was conceived to be a recreational mecca for Christian families. Rather than lands of fantasy and whimsy, the 18-acre attraction featured recreations of important Biblical landmarks and tales such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the tomb of Jesus, and the Garden of Eden. The pièce de résistance was not a giant looping roller coaster, but a towering 50-foot cross that could be seen from the highway. Holy Land USA enjoyed modest patronage throughout the years, but closed in 1984 after falling into disrepair following the death of Greco.
The once faith-based location continued to deteriorate and began to attract different kinds of visitors, chief among these being curious urban explorers and bored local teenagers. It was here in 2010 that a member of the latter group, a 16-year old girl named Chloe Ottman, met with a brutal end.
On the night of July 15th, 2010, Ottman agreed to accompany Francisco Cruz, 19, to the secluded park. They had known each other for a few years because Cruz was a friend of Ottman’s boyfriend. It was not at all unusual for the two to spend time together. That night, they were supposed to merely hang out and drink alcohol without fear of being caught. Disastrously, Cruz did not view the excursion in the same platonic manner that Ottman did. Once at Holy Land USA, the pair relaxed at the foot of the giant cross, sipping from large cans of flavored alcohol. At some point, Cruz, perhaps emboldened by the drinks, attempted to make a move on Ottman. Understandably shocked, the girl rejected the advance and reminded him that she had a boyfriend.
Undeterred, Cruz continued to grope at her until Ottman defended herself by screaming and elbowing him in the face. Enraged by the rejection and the strike, Cruz overpowered the teenager and forced her into submission with a self-described chokehold. Once Ottman was unconscious, the attack escalated into sexual assault. After Cruz completed the rape, he continued to strangle Ottman until he no longer felt a pulse. To ensure his victim was dead, he stabbed her in the neck with his pocket knife before discarding her body in the woods.
When Ottman did not return home, her family reported her as a missing person. It soon came to light that Cruz was the last person to be seen with the young woman. While in police custody, he was unable to resist their questioning and ultimately confessed to the sickening crime. He led officers to Ottman’s brutalized body, abandoned and alone at Holy Land USA.
Due to Ottman’s family wishing to avoid a painful trial process, Cruz was offered a plea agreement in 2011. He accepted and the judge gave him 55 years in prison, which was the maximum sentence possible under the deal. Of course, this was hardly any solace to her family, who told reporters that while they were glad the sentencing was behind them, they now had to figure out how to live without her.