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.

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