Who was Juan Carlos Hernandez? 21-year-old missing California student found dead in shallow grave in LA desert
The San Bernardino County Coroner's Office responded to the scene to recover the human remains, which appeared to be the victim of a homicide
A California student, who went missing on September 22, 2020, has now been found dead in a shallow grave in the desert in Los Angeles.
On Friday, November 20, the Los Angeles Department of Police announced in a statement "On November 15, 2020, LAPD RHD, San Bernardino Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team, San Bernardino Sheriff's Homicide, and FBI personnel discovered the remains of Juan Hernandez. Hernandez was found in a shallow grave along Afton Canyon Road east of Interstate 15 which is north of Barstow. The San Bernardino County Coroner's Office responded to the scene to recover the human remains which appeared to be the victim of a homicide. It was later determined by the San Bernardino County Coroner's Office – the remains were of Juan Hernandez."
The month-long search started after "Hernandez was reported missing by his family after not returning home from work that night. Within a week of Hernandez's disappearance, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Robbery-Homicide Division (RHD) Robbery Special Section (RSS)." Naming the suspects of the case, the report further suggested "On November 19, 2020, LAPD RHD Detectives with the assistance of LAPD Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) served search warrants at the residences of the persons of interest in Hernandez murder. The following suspects were arrested for 187 PC/Murder and booked at LAPD Jail: Ethan Astaphan, 27 years and Sonita Heng, 20 years"
Hernandez was a student of El Camino College in California was last seen leaving his job at a marijuana dispensary in South Los Angeles on the night of September 22 and had sent his mother a text saying he'd be home soon, an LA Times reports suggests. After which he was not heard or seen again.
For the last two months, his family tried everything to find their young son, right from handing out fliers to picketing outside police offices demanding action and asking local officials to issue a reward. “We want him back. We want to be able to be with him as we've always been,” Hernández's mother, Yajaira Hernández said at an LA City Council meeting on October 13, 2020 NBC Los Angeles reported back then. "The community, we're all still searching. I just urge you to put yourself in my shoes." The family also set up a GoFundMe page n order to raise money for the expenses involved in finding him, the fundraiser has raised nearly $22,000 of its $25,000 goal.
When the family came to know about the horrified death of their son, his mother Yajaira told The Times, “This isn’t the outcome we ever wanted or thought we’d get. But I still feel blessed that we found his body.” The probe remains ongoing.
Anyone with information regarding Hernández's murder is urged to contact investigators at (213) 486-6840. Tipsters may also go to www.lapdonline.org, and click on "Anonymous Web Tips."