New Jersey Kindergarten Teacher Found Buried In Shallow Grave After Failing To Report To Work

The estranged husband of Luz Hernandez was recently arrested in Miami in connection with the case.

February 16, 2023
Luz Hernandez, 33, pictured here, was last seen alive on Feb. 4, 2023. Her body was found in a shallow grave days later.

A kindergarten teacher believed to be the victim of domestic violence was found dead in New Jersey and her estranged husband was recently arrested hundreds of miles away in Florida, officials said.

Photo by: Facebook


By: Aaron Rasmussen

A kindergarten teacher believed to be the victim of domestic violence was found dead in New Jersey and her estranged husband was recently arrested hundreds of miles away in Florida, officials said.

Luz Hernandez, 33, was last seen alive on Feb. 4, 2023, when she and her three young children spent time at the home of a relative. Two days later, Hernandez failed to show up for her job at BelovED Charter School in Jersey City and she was reported missing.

Shortly before 1 p.m. on Feb. 7, the Jersey City Police Department conducted a wellness check on Hernandez at the apartment she still shared with her husband, Cesar Santana, 36, despite their split months earlier.

Officers reported finding “blood splatters” on the home’s door, reported, citing radio transmissions, and an investigation into her disappearance was launched.

The victim’s body was discovered in a shallow grave in a desolate industrial area in Kearny where officers stopped Hernandez’s husband and another man, identified as 26-year-old Leiner Miranda Lopez, in an unregistered vehicle on Feb. 5, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office said.

An autopsy determined Hernandez was murdered by blunt force trauma and compressions to the neck.

On Feb. 10, federal marshals located Santana in a Miami motel and initially charged him with desecrating human remains, WNBC reported.

Lopez remains at large.

Additional charges are expected in the case, prosecutors said.

According to a GoFundMe campaign started by the victim’s sister, Jenny Taveras, Hernandez was 5 when she immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic.

Tavares said Hernandez was “a devoted mother” to her three surviving children and would have graduated with a master’s degree in education this spring.

“People loved her,” said Bret Schunder, the founder of BelovED, where Hernandez started out as a teacher’s assistant in 2017. “She was a wonderful co-worker. … People are feeling devastated by this.”

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic violence or abuse from a romantic partner, you can visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website, call 1.800.799.SAFE, or text START to 88788 for help. Advocates are available 24/7 to help callers talk through their situation and connect them with local resources. There is no charge to reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Next Up

A Man’s Family Is Certain He Was Wrongly Convicted Of Murdering His Pregnant Wife In 1997

Rodney Patrick McNeal is in prison after authorities say he murdered his wife in a fit of rage in 1997. His family has been adamant about his innocence ever since.

True Crime News Roundup: Young NYC Mother Fatally Shot While Pushing Newborn In Stroller

Plus: Gabby Petito’s mother “fed up” with “narcissist” killer Brian Laundrie; search continues for missing Georgia teen with special needs; Arizona grandmother solves her own murder; warrant connected to Emmett Till lynching case discovered in Mississippi courthouse.

How The Tragic Murder Of Jasmine Fiore Changed Reality TV

On August 15, 2009, human remains found stuffed in a suitcase were identified as 28-year-old model Jasmine Fiore. Soon after, reality TV star Ryan Alexander Jenkins was charged with her murder.

DNA From A Cigarette Helped Solve The Murder Of A Vermont Woman After Five Decades

After 52 years, police identified the man who viciously murdered a 24-year-old schoolteacher in the summer of 1971.

30 Years Later, Tech CEO Charged With The 1992 Cold Case Murder Of Roommate’s Girlfriend

Advances in DNA technology led to the July 2022 arrest of John Kevin Woodward for the murder of 25-year-old Laurie Houts.

True Crime News Roundup: Missouri Man Gets Life In Prison After Killing Pregnant Wife With Mallet

Plus: Alabama inmate indicted for murder of corrections officer lover; two teenagers accused of murdering elderly man with traffic cone; Michigan family of four dead in apparent murder-suicide; and NYC homeless man accused of ‘heinous’ violent crimes.

Transgender Teen Gwen Araujo ‘Has Literally Saved Thousands Of Lives’ Since Her 2002 Murder, Mother Says

Her daughter’s death “was the beginning of a life sentence for me and my family,” Sylvia Guerrero recalls.

Found Alive After Four Decades: 42-Year-Old Holly Marie Clouse Is Located In Oklahoma

Holly Marie Clouse vanished from Texas as an infant after her parents, Harold Dean Clouse Jr. and Tina Gail Linn Clouse, were murdered in 1981. In June 2022, she was found alive and well.

True Crime News Roundup: Iowa Teenagers Allegedly Killed Spanish Teacher Over Bad Grades

Plus: Gabby Petito’s parents file lawsuit against Utah police; Handyman admits to killing New York mom; Massachusetts ‘Lady of the Dunes’ identified; Long-haul trucker accused of murdering girlfriend.

A Massachusetts College Student’s 1986 Cold Case Murder Was Finally Solved 36 Years Later

20-year-old Claire Gravel spent the night of June 29, 1986 with friends at a pub. After she was dropped off at her Salem apartment early the next morning, she was never seen alive again.