By Miguel Cruz Tejada
NEW YORK._ With the song “Ahora que te vas,” the community, family members, colleagues, and co-workers bid farewell to the remains of the Dominican teacher Luz Melina Hernández, who was assassinated and her body found in a shallow grave in the suburb of Kearny, New Jersey, when hundreds turned out to see her off at Riotto Funeral Home & Cremation Company in Jersey City.
Family members, her classmates, and co-workers at Beloved Community Charter School turned out to mourn her abrupt departure and leave flowers, messages, and tears at the funeral home.
The wake was held from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
On the way to the cemetery, the funeral caravan made a stop in front of the school, where she was much loved by students, teachers, and employees, who formed a long line to receive the funeral home car that stopped in the campus parking lot, opening the rear trunk. For community members to deposit flowers.
Interment continued at Bayview Cemetery, where she was laid to rest at 11:30 a.m., leaving behind her three children, two sisters, a brother, and her parents, among other relatives.
A long procession of cars accompanying the motorcade paused on Grand Street as the hearse driver stopped to have flowers placed on the casket.
From one of the cars, the song “Now that you’re leaving” could be heard above the noise of the street.
After her estranged husband found the body of the 33-year-old Kindergarten teacher, Cesar Santana (Junior), he was arrested in Florida and charged with desecration/concealment of human remains.
The alleged accomplice Santana, Leiner Miranda López, a fugitive from justice, is actively sought by the authorities. It was said that the offender was Central American or Mexican.
Brett Schundler, the former mayor and principal of the school said they are delaying holding a campus-wide ceremony to remember Hernandez. “We want to give the students a little more time,” he added.
The Hudson County prosecutor’s office said Santana’s extradition from Miami to New Jersey is pending, which could happen in the next few days.
Santana was arrested at the “Sinbad” hotel in Miami Dade by federal marshals (US Marshalls) who handed him over to the police in that county on Friday morning Saturday.
Santana and Miranda Lopez, both Jersey City residents, were each charged with one count of desecration/concealment of human remains, the Hudson County prosecutor’s office said.
The teacher’s husband is being held at Miami Dade’s Turner Guilford Overnight Detention Center as a fugitive from justice.
Miranda López is still a fugitive, and authorities ask community members if anyone knows her whereabouts; they notify the confidential Jersey City police hotline.
The body of Hernandez, 33, who had been reported missing by school officials and family members, was found in a shallow grave in an industrial area at Central Avenue and Third Street in Kearny on Tuesday of last week after she was reported missing Monday for failing to report to campus.
Prosecutors said Santana and Lopez were involved in a traffic stop Sunday in Kearny, and police seized the car they were in, but the two left the area.
After Jersey City police were notified Monday of the educator’s disappearance, Kearny officials informed them of the traffic stop. Police searched the car and the area.
The medical examiner’s office confirmed the death was a homicide and said Hernandez died from blunt force trauma to the head and compressions (suffocation) to the neck.
One of Hernández’s sisters, Jenny Taveras, said the teacher was a victim of domestic violence in a GoFundMe campaign created to help her three children.
“She was a devoted mother and daughter who loved working with children,” Tavares wrote. “She was a passionate educator who worked tirelessly.”
Hernández was born in the Dominican Republic, came to the United States at age five, and was about to graduate with a master’s degree from Saint Peters Community College in Jersey City, Tavares said.
The sister said Hernandez’s two older children attend the Jersey City charter school where her mother worked with kindergartners.
The teacher left her three children and procreated with Santana, two sisters, two brothers, her mother, and her father.
The educator’s murder is the fourth domestic violence homicide in three weeks.