HCPO: Second man charged with first-degree murder of woman found dead in South Kearny

Miranda Lopez is still wanted by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office. He was recently charged, in absencia, with first-degree murder among other charges. HCPO

Despite not yet being apprehended, additional charges have been filed against a Jersey City man in connection with the death of Luz Hernandez, 33, also of Jersey City, who was found dead in South Kearny on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said today.

Leiner Miranda Lopez, 26, is charged with first-degree murder, hindering and tampering with physical evidence. He was previously charged with desecrating/concealing human remains.

Cesar Santana, 36, of Jersey City, was also charged similarly last month.

He remains in custody at the Hudson County Correctional Facility in South Kearny, the case has been referred to a grand jury and it is being investigated as an act of domestic violence.

On Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, Hernandez, a teacher at BelovED Charter School in Jersey City was reported missing to the Jersey City Police Department. On Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, police conducted a welfare check on Van Horne Street, Jersey City, on a missing person’s report.

The findings resulted in the Jersey City Police Department contacting the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office for assistance. During the course of the investigation, authorities 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 (apparently incriminating) evidence was recovered.

The Kearny Police Department, more specifically Police Officers Jose Perez-Fonseca, Bryan San Martin and Anthony Oliveira — aware of the 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.

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 (strangulation) and the manner of death to be homicide.

This investigation is active and ongoing. Anyone with information — including on the Miranda Lopez’s whereabouts — 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.

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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.