Jose Cuenca-Zuniga has been charged with the murder of 19-year-old Yadhira Romero Martinez after the teen’s body was discovered in his Minneapolis home last Friday.
Martinez vanished after she left her Bloomington workplace around 4 pm on April 22. According to surveillance footage of the area surrounding Martinez’s place of work, the 19-year-old got into a car that had Minnesota license plates. When Martinez failed to return home that night, a family member grew concerned and filed a missing persons report in the morning.
On that same morning, a woman called the Minneapolis Fire Department and asked them to check on one of her renters— a young man named Cuenca-Zuniga. The woman reported that as the 23-year-old was leaving his room, she caught a glimpse through the doorway of a woman’s feet propped up on the mattress. Cuenca-Zuniga allegedly told the woman that the girl on his bed was “passed out” and “had too much to drink.” He locked his door and left.
The woman attempted to knock on the door and wake up whoever was on the other side, but no one answered. When the Minneapolis Fire Department arrived, they broke down the bedroom door and found Martinez dead on the bed. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Martinez’s death was a “homicide based on multiple traumatic injuries.”
The woman who had called the authorities also reported the Cuenca-Zuniga left her house with a bag that was packed with clothing and food. Police used the young man’s cellphone data to locate him and found that he had driven all the way to Ohio. Ohio State Patrol troopers arrested Cuenca-Zuniga and placed him in the state’s custody where he now awaits an extradition to Minnesota. He is currently being charged with intentional and non-premeditated murder in the second degree.
Martinez had just moved to the Minneapolis area from Mexico last September and was living alone with her younger brother. In a vigil held in Martinez’s honor, family and friends showed up in droves to pay their respects to the 19-year-old.
“She had a really good personality, she was always inviting so she would always smile, see how you’re doing,” her cousin Jorge Romero said. “Parents were not here, they were a thousand miles away, so I would say they didn’t have people really look out for them in a way. So it was really up to them,” he added.
Martinez’s family have two GoFundMe accounts (one for her mother’s side of the family and the other for her father’s side of the family) set up to raise money for transporting their loved one’s body back to Mexico for burial.