One man has been arrested and an arrest warrant has been issued for another in connection with the death investigation of Luz Hernandez, 33, of Jersey City, who was found deceased in South Kearny earlier this week, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said.
Cesar Santana, 36, and Leiner Miranda Lopez, 26, both of Jersey City, are each — so far — charged with one count of desecrating/concealing human remains.
Santana was arrested shortly after midnight on Friday, Feb. 10, 2023, at a motel on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami, by members of the United States Marshals Service Southern District of Florida, in conjunction with the United States Marshals Service New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force. He is being detained at the Miami-Dade Turner Guilford Night Detention Center as a fugitive from justice, pending extradition to New Jersey.
Miranda Lopez has not yet been apprehended and anyone with information regarding his whereabouts is urged to contact the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office at (201) 915-1345.
On Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, Luz Hernandez was reported missing to the Jersey City Police Department. On Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, a welfare check was conducted on Van Horne Street on a missing person’s report. The findings resulted in the Jersey City Police Department contacting the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office for assistance and Cesar Santana was identified as a person of interest in the matter.
During the course of the investigation, it was determined Cesar Santana and Leiner Miranda Lopez were involved in a motor vehicle stop on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023 on Central Avenue in South Kearny, prior to Luz Hernandez being reported missing. The vehicle was unregistered and impounded by the Kearny Police Department. A court-authorized search of the vehicle was executed on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, and additional evidence was recovered.
The Kearny Police Department, knowing details of the traffic stop, led the Homicide Unit to the area of Central Avenue and Third Street in South Kearny, where investigators ultimately located what appeared to be a shallow grave.
There they found Hernandez’s body.
The Regional Medical Examiner’s Office determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the head and compressions to the neck and the manner of death to be homicide.
A timeline and summary of the investigation thus far is as follows:
- Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023 — The Kearny Police Department conducted a traffic stop on Central Avenue of a vehicle occupied by Cesar Santana and Leiner Miranda Lopez. The vehicle was unregistered and impounded.
- Monday, Feb. 6, 2023 — A missing person’s report was filed with the Jersey City Police Department for Luz Hernandez.
- Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023 — The Jersey City Police Department conducted a welfare check on Van Horne Street. A crime scene was located, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office was notified, and Cesar Santana was identified as a person of interest. The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office learned of the traffic stop in South Kearny. The Kearny Police Department informed the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office it was still in possession of the vehicle and a court-authorized search warrant was executed on the vehicle. The Kearny Police Department led the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Unit to the area of the traffic stop and a shallow grave was located near Central Avenue and Third Street. The body of Luz Hernandez was recovered.
- Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023 — An autopsy performed by the Regional Medical Examiner’s Office determined Luz Hernandez died of blunt force trauma to the head and compressions to the neck. The manner of death was ruled a homicide.
This investigation is active and ongoing and no additional information will be released at this time. Additional charges and/or arrests may be expected.
Suarez credited the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Unit, the Jersey City Police Department, the Kearny Police Department, the United States Marshals Service New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force, the United States Marshals Service Southern District of Florida, the United States Marshals Service Middle District of Pennsylvania, the New Jersey State Police, and the Pennsylvania State Police with the investigation and arrest.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Office of the Hudson County Prosecutor at (201) 915-1345 or to leave an anonymous tip at www.hudsoncountyprosecutorsofficenj.org/homicide-tip.
All information will be kept confidential.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe has been set up for Hernandez’s three children at https://www.gofundme.com/f/488kfp-children-scholarship-fund?qid=540b0a94fbfc6aeee1d66e4d9c4e1207
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.