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Missing Kindergarten Teacher, Mother Of 3 Found Buried In Shallow Grave

Kearny, NJ – The body of a missing New Jersey kindergarten teacher was found buried in a shallow grave just miles away from her home on Tuesday.

An autopsy revealed 33-year-old Luz Hernandez died from “blunt force trauma to the head and compressions to the neck,” and her death was ruled a homicide, WNYW reported.

Members of the U.S. Marshals Service Southern District of Florida arrested 36-year-old Cesar Santana on a charge of desecrating/concealing human remains on Friday with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said in a press release.

Santana was apprehended at a motel located on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami shortly after midnight, Suarez said.

A manhunt is underway for a second suspect, 26-year-old Leiner Miranda Lopez, who wanted for desecrating/concealing human remains, according to the prosecutor.

Kearny police pulled over a vehicle occupied by Lopez and Santana on Feb. 5 – one day before Hernandez was reported as missing, WNYW reported.

Officers determined the vehicle was unregistered, so they ultimately impounded it.

Suarez said Hernandez was reported missing on Feb. 6 after she failed to show up for work at the BelovED Community Charter School in Jersey City, WNYW reported.

The Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) conducted a welfare check on Van Horne Street on Tuesday and discovered the crime scene, at which point the prosecutor’s office was contacted.

Investigators subsequently identified Santana as a person of interest in the case and obtained a search warrant on the previously-impounded vehicle, WNYW reported.

Suarez said “additional evidence was recovered” from inside the impounded vehicle.

Police and the prosecutor’s office then returned to the area of the traffic stop.

“During the course of the investigation, the Homicide Unit located what appeared to be a shallow grave in the area of Central Avenue and Third Street in Kearny,” Suarez said, according to ABC News. “The body of a female was recovered a short time later and she was pronounced dead at the scene at 4:53 p.m.”

Hernandez’s cause and manner of death were determined on Thursday.

Santana is Hernandez’s estranged husband, according to WABC.

The schoolteacher’s family said the couple still resided together in the same home despite having separated back in November, WNYW reported.

They share three children, a sixth-grader, a fourth-grader, and a two-year-old.

Santana is expected to face additional charges after he is extradited back to New Jersey from Florida, WABC reported.

A fundraising campaign established to help Hernandez’s children has raised more than $23,000 so far.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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