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One suspect arrested in New Jersey kindergarten teacher's death; second suspect remains at large

Office of the Hudson County Prosecutor

Police arrested one man in connection with the death of a New Jersey kindergarten teacher and issued a warrant for the arrest of a second, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez announced Friday.

Luz Hernandez, a 33-year-old kindergarten teacher and mother of three, was reported missing on February 6 after she did not show up for work Fox News reported.

“Everyone is devastated,” Bret Schundler, founder of BelovED Community Charter School told CNN. Hernandez was a kindergarten teacher at the school.

“She was a wonderful person, and very much an important part of the community,” the Jersey City administrator added.

Hernandez's body was found in Kearny, New Jersey on Tuesday in "what appeared to be a shallow grave," HCPO's statement says. She was pronounced dead on the scene.

The Regional Medical Examiner's Office determined the manner of death to be homicide, the statement continues. The cause of death was "blunt force trauma to the head and compressions to the neck."

On Sunday, February 5, the day before Ms. Hernandez was reported missing, Kearny Police Department made a traffic stop involving Cesar Santana and Leiner Miranda Lopez in which they impounded the occupants' unregistered vehicle.

On February 7, the day after Ms. Hernandez was reported missing, Jersey City Police located a crime scene when conducting a welfare check. They identified identified Santana as a person of interest. A search warrant was executed on the vehicle.

That same day, February 7, the Kearny Police Department led the HCPO to the area of the traffic stop where they found Hernandez's body in a shallow grave.

Cesar Santana, 36, and Leiner Miranda Lopez, 26, are charged with "desecrating/concealing human remains." Both men are from Jersey City.

Santana was arrested Friday at a motel in Miami, Florida by members of the United States Marshals Service New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force. He is detained at the Miami-Dade Turner Guilford Night Detention Center pending extradition to New Jersey.

Miranda Lopez remains at large. HCPO requests that anyone with information about his whereabouts contact them at 201-915-1345.

"The BelovED community will continue to honor Ms. Hernandez's memory and celebrate her for who she was and all the joy she brought to the world," a page memorializing Hernandez on her school's website says.

Donations honoring Ms. Hernandez are accepted via Venmo. All proceeds will go directly to the family, the school also notes on its memorial page.

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