Estranged husband arrested in kindergarten teacher's death, another man sought: prosecutors

ByJon Haworth ABCNews logo
Friday, February 10, 2023
Arrest made in death of beloved NJ kindergarten teacher: Police
An arrest has been made in the death investigation of 33-year-old New Jersey teacher Luz Hernandez. Janice Yu reports

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- The estranged husband of a beloved kindergarten teacher whose body was found in a shallow grave earlier this week has been charged in connection with her death.

Luz Hernandez, a 33-year-old kindergarten teacher from Jersey City, New Jersey, was first reported missing on Monday which led to the Jersey City Police Department to conduct a welfare check the following day in regards to the missing person's report, according to Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez.

Her body was discovered in a shallow grave on Tuesday afternoon in Kearny, New Jersey -- just a few miles from where she lived and worked.

Autopsy results revealed on Thursday indicate that she died of blunt force trauma to the head and compressions to the neck, according to ABC News' New York City station WABC.

Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez announced Friday that her estranged husband and father of their three children, Cesar Santana, 36, has been arrested and charged with desecrating/concealing human remains. A second man, Leiner Miranda Lopez, 26, has not yet been apprehended and is also charged with one count of desecrating/concealing human remains.

Santana was reportedly in church with their children on Sunday. He was arrested by US Marshals shortly after midnight on Friday at a motel in Miami, prosecutors said.

Hernandez worked as a kindergarten teacher at BelovED Charter School in Jersey City and her death has led to an outpouring of grief within the community after the mother of three didn't show up for work on Monday.

A makeshift memorial has appeared outside her home where people have been leaving flowers and condolence messages.

"[She was] the best sister in the world ... it's unbelievable," Hernandez's sister told WABC.

"[She was a] very pleasant woman, beautiful children. It is sad that she passed away. I feel terrible," a neighbor identified as Monique told WABC in an interview. "She always seemed so pleasant so I really didn't think something so severe [could happen]."

Anyone with information pertaining to this case is asked to contact the Office of the Hudson County Prosecutor at 201-915-1345 or to leave an anonymous tip. All information will be kept confidential.