Brilliant thinking of 3 Kearny cops leads to arrest of alleged murderer

The approximate location of where the body was discovered. Apple Maps

Imagine this. It’s dark. It’s late at night. You’re a cop. And there appears to be a car pulled over to the side of a curbless road in an industrial area. It’s not really doing anything wrong, but it’s a strange time of night and a strange place for a vehicle to be just kinda hanging around — and no other cars are nearby.

I sampled about a dozen cops who all told me in almost all likelihood, they would have continued to drive right past that vehicle, thinking little to nothing of it. 

But in a recent real-life scenario, where this vehicle really was pulled off to the side of the road in South Kearny, Police Officers Jose Perez-Fonseca and Bryan San Martin, then Anthony Oliveira, had a hunch — something didn’t add up with this car. So, instead of driving past it, they lit it up, only to learn the vehicle’s registration was expired.  So, long story short, the vehicle is towed to a Kearny Police Department impound lot since it can’t be driven without registration. Then, on went the occupants to do whatever they had to thereafter.

Here’s the thing though. One of them, we’d learn the next day, was Cesar Santana, of Jersey City, the man who now stands accused of murdering his former partner, Luz Hernandez, a 33-year-old Jersey City charter school teacher. No one knew it at the time, but this simple act of ticketing Santana for driving an unregistered vehicle would lead to his demise ­— thanks be to God.

Because after Hernandez was reported missing, a detective ran Santana’s name for recent tickets, and wouldn’t you know it, the detective was immediately alerted to Santana getting one, in South Kearny, the very night before. This man, who at the time was a person of interest, had just been ticketed hours earlier. 

Now, since the Kearny officers who “pulled him over” could identify precisely where the incident occurred, they were able to supply this information to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office and shortly thereafter, sadly, Hernandez’s body was found in a shallow grave, thrown away as though it were last night’s trash.

Had the three aforementioned police officers taken the easy route here, it is probable, hell, even likely, Santana isn’t captured a few days later off Key Biscayne Boulevard in Miami. 

And Hernandez’s family is left to wonder where he is, what he might do next. Instead, he was apprehended by the U.S. Marshals, ultimately extradited back to Jersey and now sits accused of first-degree murder, behind those oh-so-cozy bars of the Hudson County Jail in South Kearny.

We take this time to commend Perez-Fonseca, Oliveira and San Martin for going above and beyond the call of duty and, despite what some have not said, for being the biggest factor in the capture and arrest of Santana. Well done, each of you. You all did your town and community proud.     — CANESSA

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, an organization he has served 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 social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and X, 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 Kearny to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.