UPDATE: The estranged husband of a Jersey City kindergarten teacher Luz Hernandez who was found dead earlier in the week after she was beaten and strangled was arrested early Friday in Miami. Authorities said another suspect is also being sought in connection with the homicide.
U.S. Marshals arrested Cesar Santana, 36, of Jersey City, at a Miami motel on a charge of desecrating/concealing human remains, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office announced.
Santana is being held as a fugitive at the Miami-Dade Turner Guilford Night Detention Center pending extradition to New Jersey, the New York Post reported.
Santana is the estranged husband of Hernandez, 33, and the father of her three children.
Cesar Santana (Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office)
Meanwhile, law enforcement authorities are also searching for Leiner Miranda Lopez, 26, also of Jersey City. He is facing the same charge.
Investigators discovered the two men were involved in a traffic stop on Sunday — the day before Hernandez was reported missing – on Central Avenue in Kearny, New Jersey.
The unregistered car was subsequently impounded by Kearny police and searched Tuesday, when “additional evidence was recovered,” according to the prosecutor’s office.
Leiner Miranda Lopez (Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office)
Authorities did not disclose more details at this time and it’s unclear if one or both men will face murder charges.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. – A New Jersey teacher’s mysterious disappearance and death was ruled a homicide after police found her body in a shallow grave earlier this week. On Thursday authorities announced the cause of death and on Friday the prosecutor’s officer said they’ve made an arrest in the case.
Luz Hernandez, a 33-year-old mother of three and kindergarten teacher at BelovED Charter School, died from “blunt force trauma to the head and compressions to the neck,” the Hudson County District Attorney said Thursday evening, according to Fox News.
On Friday morning, the HCDA’s Office said they’ve made an arrest in Hernandez’s death. They did not identify the suspect or mention charges in its announcement, saying only that there would be “more to follow” in “the death investigation of Luz Hernandez.”
Hernandez was reported missing by her employer, BelovED Charter School, when she failed to report to work on Monday, although it is believed that she actually disappeared Saturday, NJ.com reported.
Law enforcement officers found Hernandez’s body about 4:53 p.m. on Tuesday while trying to locate the woman. She was discovered in “what appeared to be a shallow grave” dug near Central Avenue and Third Street in Kearny. She was pronounced dead at the scene, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said in a statement.
Jersey City police initially discovered “blood splatters” on the door of an apartment on Van Horne Street Tuesday just before 1 p.m. They did not locate the Hernandez at the residence, but obtained a search warrant which subsequently led them to a location in Kearny where they discovered the woman’s body, the prosecutor said.
The Homicide Unit of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office is leading the investigation along with the assistance of the Jersey City and Kearny police departments.
Further details were not immediately available as detectives pursued the investigation.
PRESS RELEASE: Homicide Unit Investigating Death of Woman Found in Kearny pic.twitter.com/hRCB4k07hf
— ProsecutorSuarezHCPO (@HCPOProsecutor) February 8, 2023
Hernandez began working at BelovED in 2017. The school was closed Wednesday as friends and colleagues mourned her loss, the New York Post reported.
The body of Luz Hernandez’s was discovered in “what appeared to be a shallow grave” dug near Central Avenue and Third Street in Kearny. (Facebook/ Luz Hernandez)
BelovED founder Bret Schundler said counselors were available for both teachers and students.
“People loved her. She was a wonderful co-worker,” Schundler told NJ.com. “She was a beloved member of the BelovED family. People are feeling devastated by this.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Office of the Hudson County Prosecutor at 201-915-1345 or to leave an anonymous tip at: http://www.hudsoncountyprosecutorsofficenj.org/homicide-tip/.