Arrest made and another suspect wanted in the death of a New Jersey kindergarten teacher found in a shallow grave


An arrest has been made in connection with the death of Luz Hernandez, a New Jersey kindergarten teacher who was found in a shallow grave, according to the Hudson County prosecutor’s office.

Cesar Santana, 36, was arrested at a Miami motel early Friday morning by members of the US Marshals Service for the Southern District of Florida and the US Marshals Service New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force. He was charged with one count of desecration or concealment of human remains and is being held at the Miami-Dade Turner Guilford Night Detention Center as a fugitive.

Santana is Hernandez’s ex, according to a senior law enforcement official.

Authorities are also seeking to arrest another fugitive, Leiner Miranda Lopez, 26, who is being charged with the same charge as Santana. The Hudson County District Attorney’s office is asking anyone with information on Lopez to come forward.

Both Santana and Lopez are from Jersey City, according to the Hudson County prosecutor’s office.

During the investigation, it was discovered that Santana and Lopez were involved in a traffic stop on Sunday, the day before Hernandez was reported missing. His unregistered car was impounded and searched Tuesday and «additional evidence was recovered,» according to the prosecutor’s office.

Authorities did not clarify what the evidence was.

Luz Hernandez, 33, was found in a shallow grave by investigators conducting a welfare check at her Jersey City home on Tuesday. She was pronounced dead at the scene around 4:53 p.m., according to a Press release from the prosecutor’s office.

Hernandez «died of blunt force trauma to the head and compressions to the neck,» according to the autopsy report conducted Thursday.

She was the mother of three children, according to NBC New York.

The kindergarten teacher had been working at the BelovED Charter School in Jersey City since 2017, founder Bret Schundler told NBC News.

«She was a wonderful woman,» he said of Hernández. «She started with us as a teacher’s aide and earned her certification from the New Jersey Department of Education and became a lead teacher.»

Schundler said Hernandez loved children.

«She was the type of person we looked for, who loves children and did an excellent job teaching students academically, but also showing them that she cares about them,» he said. «The kids loved her because they knew she cared for her.»

The charter school closed Wednesday in honor of Hernandez’s death and is providing grief counseling to the school community.

The investigation into Hernandez’s death is ongoing.

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