Luz Hernandez was home alone the evening of Feb. 4 when her estranged husband walked toward her Jersey City apartment and emerged an hour later, dragging away a black and yellow bin, new court documents reveal.
The next day, the estranged husband, Cesar Santana, and another man loaded a black and yellow bin into a Honda in Kearny, an industrial area in New Jersey. The car had an expired registration tag and was impounded.
Family members and Santana, 36, the father of her children, reported Hernandez missing on Feb. 6. During a welfare check at Hernandez’ apartment the next day, police did not find the beloved kindergarten teacher.
“However, inside, officers observed apparent bloodstains in the bedroom, cleaning supplies, a mop, and a faint smell of bleach in the apartment,” the affidavit said.
Details about the killing of Hernandez were revealed in an affidavit for probable cause outlining what police learned in the days after they uncovered her beaten and strangled remains in a shallow grave in Kearny.
The grim discovery was made near where Santana and a second man were pulled over the previous day.
“A search of the Honda revealed a large black and yellow bin with wheels, a shovel with apparent black hairs, a pick axe, rope with apparent black hair and blood stains, and clear plastic sheeting with apparent bloodstains and soil,” the affidavit states. “The rope matched the rope near the grave.”
Santana was arrested at a motel in Miami on Feb. 10 and booked into jail on charges of desecrating and concealing human remains. When police found him, he had five cellphones, two of which belonged to Hernandez, authorities say. He was transferred this week to New Jersey and charged with murder in the domestic violence case, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office said. A second man, Leiner Miranda Lopez, also faces charges in the case but has not been located.
Hernandez was a kindergarten teacher at BelovED Community Charter School in Jersey City. Her death terrified her co-workers and young students.
“It’s heartbreaking. It’s touching. She had children. She was a schoolteacher,” bus attendant Miss T. said at her funeral procession on Feb. 15.
Bret Schundler, the school’s founder, said she touched many lives.
“People are devastated,” he said. “The way that she touched others and the way they feel about her shows the kind of person she was.”
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