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Minneapolis man charged with murder in death of 19-year-old woman

Jose Cuenca-Zuniga, 23, is in Ohio and awaiting extradition to Minnesota. He is charged with intentional second-degree murder.

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minneapolis man has been charged with intentional, non-premeditated second-degree murder in the death of 19-year-old Yadhira Romero Martinez, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office announced Wednesday. 

The man charged is Jose Cuenca-Zuniga, 23. He is being held in Ohio, and the attorney's office said extradition proceedings have begun. 

According to the criminal complaint, Martinez disappeared after leaving her Bloomington workplace at 4 p.m. on April 22. A family member was concerned when she didn't return home that night and filed a missing persons report in the morning. 

The complaint goes on to say that Bloomington Police watched surveillance video from Martinez's workplace and saw that she had gotten into a car with Minnesota license plates.

That same day, the attorney's office said a woman called the Minneapolis Fire Department asking them to come to her house on the 3000 block of 18th Avenue South. 

According to the complaint, the caller said Cuenca-Zuniga was leaving the room he rents from her on April 23, and she had seen a woman's feet on a mattress through the door. He allegedly told her the woman was "passed out" and "had had too much to drink." She said he locked the door and left. 

The woman said when she knocked on the door to try to wake the woman up at 12:30 p.m. that day, no one answered. That's when she called the fire department. When MFD arrived and broke down the door, they found Martinez dead. 

According to the complaint, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Martinez's cause of death was "homicide based on multiple traumatic injuries."  

The woman who called in the welfare check told police that when Cuenca-Zuniga left that morning, he packed a bag with items including food. According to the complaint, she felt that something was "unusual" and used her phone to record him driving away in a car with Minnesota license plates.

The complaint says that police obtained surveillance footage from a nearby home, showing Martinez and Cuenca-Zuniga arriving at the home shortly after 6 p.m. the night before and then Cuenca-Zuniga leaving in the morning. 

Police used cellphone data to locate Cuenca-Zuniga in Ohio. Ohio State Patrol troopers found him in a vehicle matching the description of the one he left his rented residence in. 

On April 24, Martinez's family organized a vigil in her honor. A crowd marched from the corner of Lake Street and 18th Avenue to the home where she was found. At the vigil, family and friends described her as gentle and kind. 

"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.

Romero said she had just turned 19 and had recently moved to Minnesota with her younger brother from Mexico.

"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,” Romero said. 


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