This tale of woe is rather odd since the youtube video about the case, Happily Never After, and newspapers differ in the identifies of the people involved. Oscar Cruz, Ewing’s husband, is also identified as Alexander Vargas. I’ve chosen to use the identities from the video.
Victoria Lee was born in Carty, Nebraska. She was a golden-haired little tomboy with loving parents. Eventually the family moved to Iowa. An ambitious teenager, she majored in political science at Omaha College. She ran for city council in her hometown and won. Lee also took up ballroom and Latin dancing.
Oscar Cruz, a man 7 years older than Lee, was born into a Mexican family. He loved animals and was very nurturing. Cruz’s parents worried about his well-being since they lived in a rough neighborhood. They sent Cruz to Omaha, Nebraska to live. It was difficult to leave his family but he knew it was the best .Cruz and Lee became friends during college but they didn’t date. Cruz was a farmer by trade. His aim was to own his own farm. He also loved dancing.
At the age of 25, Lee ran into Cruz again at a dance hall. They were instantly enamored with each other although Cruz had a girlfriend and Lee had a boyfriend. The two couldn’t date. Eventually these relationships ended and Lee and Cruz became involved with each other. At the dances they attended, they did several sexy dances together. It was obvious to everyone that there was a strong connection between Lee and Cruz. Cruz, however was the jealous type. He didn’t like it when Lee danced with other men. Never mind. Lee was in love and she became engaged to the handsome man. The two seemed to have the world at their dancing feet. Giddy with love, Lee was thrilled when her family welcome Cruz into the fold. They had been friends for several years before they became lovers, a good recipe for a successful marriage.
Once Lee and Cruz were married, it seemed their joy knew no bounds. They considered to be the perfect match. However six weeks after their wedding the unthinkable happened. Lee called police to report that a stranger had intruded on their property and he appeared to be armed with a gun. “Hurry! Please!” she screamed. During a second call gunshots were fired in the background. She screamed, “no! Please don’t! Stop it!” Then a distinctive thud, followed by a falling phone, was heard.
The deputy and other officers raced to the residence, located near Ewing County. When they finally arrived, they discovered the house was engulfed in flames. Felix Ruez (also identified as Francisco Romez in newspapers)lingered outside the home, seemingly panicked because his two married roommates were trapped inside the residence. Firefighters doused the fire but the house was utterly decimated. Police entered the residence and found two bodies burnt beyond recognition. They were later identified as Cruz and Lee. Ruez on the other hand, had escaped unscathed. Minutes after Lee’s 9-1-1 phone call, another house fire with two dead bodies inside occurred. Strange. Was there a connection the wondered?
Police questioned Ruez. He seemed quite distraught but rather than leave the scene as he had every right to do, he hung around to talk to police. That’s one of those things that make you go hmmmm… Investigators don’t believe this was a natural fire. Clever bunch. They treated the scene as a homicide. Ruez wanted to give police the impression that he was a good person who wanted to help. He claimed he was awoken earlier in the night when he heard footsteps around the house but he went back to sleep, ignoring the noise. Later he heard a “crackling sound” and opening his door, he discovered the house was ablaze. Naturally the Cruz and the Lee families were devastated. “It doesn’t really seem like she’s gone…I keep waiting for her to walk in the door,” Lee’s mother commented sadly.
Ruez owned the home. Investigators couldn’t find the murder weapon so they ruled out murder-suicide. They surmised that Rauz had shot the couple then set the house on fire to hide the evidence. The coroner quickly reached the conclusion that both people had been shot to death. However police were wrong about Ruez. Months earlier, the couple had moved into Cruz’ residence on the other side of town, which was close to Lee’s former 33-year-old boyfriend, Matt Hinrichsen. Hinrichsen had an anxious detachment disorder. He was furious when he found out about the wedding. He often made threatening phone calls to his ex-girlfriend. “I’m done with you. You’re worthless! You’re a piece of trash!” he yelled into the phone. Lee hoped Hendrickson truly was “done with her” but he kept calling and threatening her. Finally she got a restraining order. She and Cruz even put their house up for sale and moved to Missouri Valley with Lee’s family. Hinrichsen found out where they were and began calling the Lee residence.
Lee finally changed her surname on her social media profile. This made the couple’s marriage highly public. She took Cruz’ name. She was proud to identify herself as Cruz’ wife. Of course this enraged Hinrichsen even more when he discovered the name change. Lee refused to let Hinrichsen upset her but hours after his last phone call, the Cruz’ moved out of the Lee residence and moved in with Raez. It didn’t help. Hinrichsen found the couple and planned their murder. Police learned of Hendrickson’s intrusion into the couple’s life and made an arrest. Hinrichsen was charged with first degree murder in both Cruz and Lee’s deaths. Hinrichsen confessed to his father that he had killed the couple.Police recovered the clothing Hinrichsen had worn the night of the murders and ran DNA tests on Hinrichsen’s clothing and discovered blood and brain grey matter that belonged to Lee and Cruz. Ick.
Hinrichsen used an AK-47 to murder the young couple. He shot Cruz three times. He beat Lee with the gun until she was dead. He then lit the house on fire. At the end of Hinrichsen’s trial in Antelope County, the jury found Hinrichsen guilty on both counts of first degree murder. Hinrichsen felt no remorse. His only regret was that he was caught and imprisoned for the crimes. Hinrichsen received a life sentence with the possibility of parole. He is incarcerated in the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution. His next parole date is set for April in 2024.