Who is Eric Gael Hernandez-Mendez? Roommate charged in death of woman, 20, found dead in her locked bedroom
'My daughter, my beautiful princess, she was in her room sleeping when this happened,' the father said
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA: A 20-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday, April 7, in connection with the murder of his roommate, who was found dead in the bedroom of their shared apartment, near North Carolina State University.
Erick Gael Hernandez-Mendez is charged with murder and was taken to the Wake County Detention Center. Police officers responded to the 1500 block of Hillsborough Street on Sunday, April 4, after it was reported that Christina Maria Matos, 20, didn’t show up for her birthday party.
“We want to figure out what happened with Christina,” her mom, Yolanda Matos, said through tears Monday afternoon. “We want justice for her.” At Matos' family home in Clayton, her grieving friends and family told ABC 11 the murder suspect was the young woman's roommate at the Signature Apartments. The family says they didn't know Hernandez-Mendez well, but they remember meeting him briefly when he helped Matos move out of her parents' home.
"This is the roommate. He lived in the apartment," said Norma Matos. "Why?! Why?! When you live with your roommate, it's your friend! You live with your friend. Study with your friend! Speak with your friend! Why?! Why?!" Matos's family was making funeral arrangements when news broke of the arrest.
With tears in his eyes, Matos' father, Gerardo, said he believes she is talking to the family from beyond. "She's saying, 'Justice for me,' Gerardo said. "She's saying that. He may have done it, but maybe someone else helped open the door to her apartment or have been an accomplice," said Gerardo. "My daughter, my beautiful princess, she was in her room sleeping when this happened." "What was the motive? What motivated this guy? I need to know what the motive was. What was the reason?" he added.
On Sunday, a 911 caller reported their daughter was missing. She spent April 2, 2021, celebrating with friends at night. "I feel like it's a dream," her friend Camila Romero, who saw her just before she disappeared, said. "It hits harder when it's somebody that you're closer to, that you know of, that all she was doing was just working. If you meet her family, they've just been hard workers. They're immigrants, you know. We come here for a reason, to actually work." She made it home to her apartment on the second floor of Signature 1505 on Hillsborough Street near NC State, but that was the last time anyone saw her alive.
Matos' parents said that the apartment their daughter was sharing with her roommates was her first apartment. She worked and took radiology courses at Wake Technical Community College. The former athlete at Clayton High School had plenty of friends, but when Raleigh police detectives called her parents, investigators began asking who might want to hurt her.
"(The detective) came back and said, 'Let me tell you something.' I asked if they found Christina. And he said, 'Yeah we found her.' And I was excited and where she was. And he said, 'I'm sorry guys, we found Christina in her room and she's deceased," Yolanda Matos recalled tearfully. "Everything is coming down in my life."
RPD discovered her body inside her locked bedroom, only hours after her mother and brother went to check on her. Her mother had a key to get inside the apartment. But couldn't open her daughter's locked bedroom door. "I want to scream! I want to yell. I want to yell, 'Why?' Christina, why to us?" Yolanda Matos said. "We need justice. We need justice for Christina."
Hernandez-Mendez is scheduled to make his first appearance before a Wake district judge on Thursday afternoon.