Jersey City man charged with first-degree murder of woman found dead in South Kearny, HCPO says

Cesar Santana WSVN 7 — Miami Fox Affiliate

Updated at 2:30 p.m. with statement from Kearny PBA President Mina Ekladious.

Additional charges have been filed against a 36-year-old man in connection with the death of Luz Hernandez, a 33-year-old Jersey City school teacher, who was found dead in South Kearny Feb. 7.

Cesar Santana, of Jersey City, is charged with first-degree murder, hindering and tampering with physical evidence.

Santana was arrested at a motel in Miami on Friday, Feb. 10, as a fugitive from justice and was previously charged with desecrating/concealing human remains. Santana was extradited to New Jersey Feb. 21 and was processed on the charges in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. He is currently being held at the Hudson County Correctional Facility pending his first court appearance.

This matter is being investigated as an act of domestic violence.

Leiner Miranda Lopez, 26, of Jersey City, has been charged with desecrating/concealing human remains, but has not yet been apprehended.

and anyone with information on his whereabouts is urged to contact the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office at 201-915-1345.

On Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, Hernandez was reported missing to the Jersey City Police Department. On Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, a welfare check was conducted on Van Horne Street regarding the 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 Santana and Miranda Lopez were involved in a motor vehicle stop Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023 on Central Avenue in South Kearny, prior to 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 right to the area of Central Avenue and Third Street in South Kearny, where investigators ultimately located what appeared to be a shallow grave.

The body of a woman — later identified as Hernandez — was recovered a short time later and she was pronounced dead at the scene. 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.

Meanwhile, Kearny PBA 21 President Mina Ekladious took time to recognize the three Kearny police officers who were involved with that late-night pullover. Were it not for them, who knows if this case would have been cleared as quickly as it was.

“As PBA President, I commend Patrolmen Jose Perez-Fonseca, Anthony Oliveira and Bryan San Martin for a job well done,” Ekladious said. “The proactiveness of these outstanding officers, in the middle of the night in a commercial area of town, was a crucial piece to assisting the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force and the Jersey City Police Department in solving this tragedy. Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Luz Hernandez.”

This investigation is active and ongoing. Additional charges and/or arrests may be expected.

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 All information will be kept confidential.

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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.