An arrest has been made in the death of a New Jersey kindergarten teacher found buried in a shallow grave, and a warrant has been issued for a second person in connection with her death, prosecutors said Friday.
Cesar Santana, 36, was arrested in the early hours of Friday morning at a motel in Miami, Florida, by US Marshals, said the Hudson County Prosecutors Office, which had announced the arrest on Twitter earlier Friday without releasing the name.
Santana is being held at the Miami-Dade Turner Guilford Night Detention Center as a fugitive pending extradition to New Jersey, the office said in a news release.
Police issued a warrant for Leiner Miranda Lopez, 26, who has not been apprehended, the office said.
Both men, who are from Jersey City, New Jersey, have been charged with one count of desecrating/concealing human remains in connection with the death of 33-year-old Luz Hernandez, whose body was found on Tuesday, a day after she was reported missing to police, the prosecutor’s office said in a news release Wednesday.
Officers had conducted a welfare check on Hernandez on Monday after she was reported missing. “The findings resulted in the Jersey City Police Department contacting the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office for assistance,” the release said.
“During the course of the investigation, the Homicide Unit located what appeared to be a shallow grave in the area of Central Avenue and Third Street in Kearny,” according to the release. “The body of a female was recovered a short time later and she was pronounced dead at the scene at 4:53 p.m.”
Hernandez died of blunt force trauma to the head and compressions to the neck, and her manner of death was ruled a homicide, according to prosecutors.
Santana and Lopez were stopped by police on Sunday on Central Avenue in Kearny before Hernandez was reported missing, prosecutors said.
Their vehicle was unregistered and the Kearny Police Department impounded it, according to the prosecutor’s office. A court-authorized search of the vehicle on Tuesday resulted in the discovery of evidence in the case.
Prosecutors didn’t say who reported Hernandez missing to the police in Jersey City.
Hernandez was a popular kindergarten teacher at the BelovED Community Charter School in Jersey City, Bret Schundler, the school’s founder, told CNN Thursday. She started as a teacher’s assistant in 2017 and had worked her way up to become lead kindergarten teacher, he said.
Hernandez was a “beloved member of the BelovED community” who was loved by students and staff alike, Schundler said.
“Everyone is devastated,” Schundler said. “She was a wonderful person, and very much an important part of the community.”
The school closed on Wednesday and reopened on Thursday with additional counselors on site, Schundler said.
CNN is seeking comment from the Jersey City Police Department as well as the Kearny Police Department, which is assisting with the investigation.