Ex Now Accused of Murdering NJ Teacher Found Buried Near Industrial Site
A murder charge has been filed against the Jersey City man accused of killing the mother of his children and then burying her in a shallow grave in Kearny. A second suspect remains a fugitive.
The body of Luz Hernandez was found on Feb. 7 a day after she was reported missing, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said.
Cesar Santana was tracked down and arrested nearly three days later by U.S. Marshals at a hotel in Miami.
Preliminary autopsy results said that the 33-year-old Jersey City kindergarten teacher had been strangled and suffered blunt force head trauma as the cause of death.
Hernandez’s killing was being investigated as an act of domestic violence, Suarez confirmed on Wednesday.
The prosecutor did not publicly confirm the status of Santana's relationship with Hernandez. Published reports described him alternately as a husband, ex-husband or estranged husband of the victim.
🔴 A second Jersey City man is still sought for helping bury the mom of three
Leiner Miranda Lopez, 26, of Jersey City, was also charged with desecrating/concealing human remains but has remained a fugitive since Feb. 10.
Anyone with information regarding his location was urged to contact the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office at 201-915-1345.
The 36-year-old Santana was initially charged with desecrating/concealing human remains.
He has since been brought back to the state and was being held in Hudson County jail.
Santana now also faced first-degree murder, third-degree counts of hindering and failing to dispose of human remains in a manner prescribed by law and fourth-degree tampering with physical evidence.
🔴 Police pieced together the victim’s grave site, from a Kearny traffic stop involving both men
Suarez previously said that Santana became a person of interest after Jersey City police did a welfare check at Hernandez’s home and found a “crime scene.”
At that point, investigators found that he and Miranda Lopez had been pulled over in Kearny a day before Hernandez was reported missing, along Central Avenue.
Their vehicle was unregistered and had been impounded by the Kearny Police Department.
Additional evidence was recovered from the car, according to the prosecutor.
Authorities then focused on the area of Central Avenue and Third Street, where Hernandez’s body was found.
🔴 Hernandez mourned by school community, family
Hernandez taught at BelovED Charter School, where two of her three children also attended classes, according to a GoFundMe setup by her sister, Jenny Taveras.
“This upcoming May, she would have graduated from St. Peter’s College with her Masters in Education,” Taveras said in the same fundraiser, which has so far collected more than $45,000 as a scholarship fund for the children.
Family members previously told News 12 that Hernandez and her kids had been living with their father — but that the couple had been separated since about November.
Additional charges and/or arrests in the case may be expected, Suarez said on Wednesday.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the prosecutor’s office at 201- 915-1345 or to leave an anonymous tip online.