A body pulled from an aqueduct in Central California on Sunday is believed to be missing 30-year-old mother Missy Hernandez.
During a press conference late Tuesday morning, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said the corpse was painstakingly recovered by a dive team from the California Aqueduct near Siskiyou and Dorris Avenues in an unincorporated area just outside of Huron, Calif.
A press release notes prior efforts in the case:
Due to suspicious circumstances surrounding her disappearance and significant time passing with no sign of Hernandez, detectives presumed her to be deceased. Based on digital evidence later discovered during the investigation, several locations were identified as places to search for Missy’s body. On two separate occasions, our Search and Rescue Team was assisted by the Kern County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team as they combed the Grapevine portion of Interstate 5, checking areas in Frazier Park and Lebec. Meanwhile, two separate ground searches were also conducted along the Highway 198 corridor in western Fresno County.
On Jan. 16, the deputies conducted what Mims termed “a dangerous dive operation at a specific area of the California Aqueduct” over the course of three hours in freezing water where, eventually, “Hernandez’s body was discovered weighted down beneath the surface.”
“We knew that it was very important to find Missy’s body,” the sheriff went on. She said the discovery offered “relief” and “closure” for both investigators and the deceased woman’s surviving family members.
Mims noted the difficulty of the search and cited the presence of “silt” in the channel which, she said, often frustrated detectives’ attempts to maintain visibility as they looked for Hernandez, who had been missing for some 40 days beginning in early December of last year.
As Law&Crime previously reported, the beloved artist’s boyfriend, Ramon Jimenez, 41, was arrested and charged with murder in early January after law enforcement allegedly found, over the course of a month-long investigation, “an overwhelming amount of forensic and digital evidence,” including DNA which indicated “a violent act.”
During the Tuesday news conference, Mims said she would not reveal the specifics of the digital evidence marshaled by investigators in the ongoing case or the alleged victim’s “manner of death.”
The sheriff did note, however, that said digital evidence showed several possible locations “well beyond Fresno County” where authorities from multiple law enforcement agencies looked for Hernandez. In response to a question about the relevance of where the body was found, Mims said the homicide occurred on South Chestnut Avenue in Fresno, Calif. She went on to allege that Jimenez simply used the aqueduct as “a hiding place to dump her body.”
Fresno County Assistant District Attorney Jerry Stanley said the discovery of the body “adds a critical evidentiary component” to the case against the defendant.
Jimenez is currently being held in the Fresno County Jail on charges of murder and domestic violence. He is not eligible for bail.
Hernandez leaves behind a grieving family, including her 11-year-old daughter. There is currently a GoFundMe for their funeral expenses.
The deceased woman’s niece remembers her aunt fondly on the fundraising page:
My aunt Missy Hernandez lived her life always making sure everyone around her knew they were loved and knew they could count on her. She loved so much and gave so much to anyone who came into her life no matter if she knew you or not. That’s the type of person she was, the loving, caring, selfless person always giving and always putting others before her own needs. Her life could be all kinds of chaos, but she never wore it on her face; she would steer her focus towards the lighter side of things and taught others to do the same. And even when she was really tired, she made sure she treated others as though they were precious too. Hers was a life that shined brightly just so the paths of others could be illuminated. Hers was also a life that exemplified brilliance in every capacity. I truly believe my Aunt to have been one of the most alive people on the planet. She was an inspiration to anyone that met her, whether they knew her for an hour or a lifetime. She lived her life to he fullest and made sure she never took a day for granted.
In the fundraiser’s description, Dolly Ayala says that her aunt was abused “daily” by a “coward” and that despite “many” attempts to leave, Hernandez ultimately lost her life and her “long fight” against her alleged killer.
During the press conference, a domestic violence advocate spoke generally about the cycle of violence that so often leads to death in comparable cases.
“This is the worst case scenario,” Marjaree Mason Center Executive Director Nicole Linder said to the assembled reporters. “Sadly, Missy’s death is not the only that has happened this year. There have been multiples. But this is exactly what we have tried to prevent.”
[images via Fresno County Sheriff – Coroner’s Office PIO]
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