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Suspect arrested in death of kindergarten teacher found in shallow grave

The body of kindergarten teacher, Luz Hernandez, who had been missing since Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 has been found buried in a shallow grave only a few miles away from where she lived and worked in Kearny, New Jersey. — WABC

(JERSEY CITY, N.J.) — The estranged husband of a beloved kindergarten teacher has been arrested in connection with her death after her body was found in a shallow grave earlier this week.

Luz Hernandez, a 33-year-old kindergarten teacher from Jersey City, New Jersey, was first reported missing on Monday which led to the Jersey City Police Department to conduct a welfare check the following day in regards to the missing person’s report, according to Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez.

Her body was discovered in a shallow grave on Tuesday afternoon in Kearny, New Jersey — just a few miles from where she lived and worked.

Cesar Santana, 36, was arrested in Miami shortly after midnight Friday morning by U.S. Marshals and has been charged with desecrating/concealing human remains in the death of Hernandez, according to Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez. Santana is the estranged husband of Hernandez and the father of her children.

Suarez said authorities are also searching for a second person in connection with Hernandez’s death. Leiner Miranda Lopez, 26, has also been charged with desecrating/concealing human remains and is still at large.

Autopsy results revealed on Thursday indicate that she died of blunt force trauma to the head and compressions to the neck, according to New York ABC station WABC-TV.

Suarez announced early Friday that a suspect had been arrested, but did not provide any further information on who the suspect is or what possible connection they could have had to Hernandez.

“An arrest has been made in connection with the death investigation of Luz Hernandez. More to follow,” Saurez tweeted early Friday morning.

Hernandez worked as a kindergarten teacher at BelovED Charter School in Jersey City and her death has led to an outpouring of grief within the community after the mother of three didn’t show up for work on Monday.

A makeshift memorial has appeared outside her home where people have been leaving flowers and condolence messages.

“[She was] the best sister in the world … it’s unbelievable,” Hernandez’s sister told WABC.

Hernandez is separated from her husband, Junior Santana, who was reportedly in church with their children on Sunday. The family said his whereabouts is currently unknown.

“[She was a] very pleasant woman, beautiful children. It is sad that she passed away. I feel terrible,” a neighbor identified as Monique told WABC in an interview. “She always seemed so pleasant so I really didn’t think something so severe [could happen].”

Anyone with information pertaining to this case is asked to contact the Office of the Hudson County Prosecutor at 201-915-1345 or to leave an anonymous tip. All information will be kept confidential.

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