MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 23-year-old man faces a murder charge in the homicide of 19-year-old Yadhira Romero Martinez in Minneapolis — a death that sent shockwaves through a close-knit community.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that Jose Daniel Cuenca-Zuniga has been charged with second-degree murder, intentional and without premeditation. Bail was set at $1 million.
CRIMINAL COMPLAINT DETAILS
According to the complaint, the victim’s family became concerned on April 22 after she left her workplace in Bloomington and did not return home that night. She also did not return to work in the morning and a missing persons report was filed with Bloomington police.
Surveillance video from the workplace showed Romero Martinez getting in the passenger side of a vehicle, which had Minnesota plates 504XLJ.
On April 23, a woman called the Minneapolis Fire Department to report that there was an unconscious female at her residence on the 3000 block of 18th Avenue South. She told the fire department that she and another person own the residence and rent rooms to some tenants. She said the unconscious woman was in the bedroom rented by Cuenca-Zuniga.
Before the residence owner made the report, Cuenca-Zuniga allegedly told her that the victim “had too much to drink and is just passed out” before leaving and locking the door to his room. When the victim didn’t respond to knocks on the door, the woman called the fire department. Firefighters responded and broke down the door to the bedroom.
There, the victim was found deceased on a mattress, with a plastic bag lying across her forehead and wearing only a T-shirt. She had obvious trauma to her body, including bruising to her face and neck. There was also a “significant quantity of blood-like substance” on the mattress, according to the complaint.
An autopsy of Ramona Martinez determined her cause of death as homicide due to multiple traumatic injuries.
Minneapolis police officers secured Cuenca-Zuniga’s phone number and a search warrant to track his phone’s location data, which showed him traveling through Ohio. The Ohio State Highway Patrol later located Cuenca-Zuniga, who was driving the same vehicle seen picking up the victim in Bloomington.
Police obtained further surveillance video from a neighboring house, showing Cuenca-Zuniga and Ramona Martinez arriving at the house at around 6 p.m., with Cuenca-Zuniga departing the next morning at 9:27 a.m. and a second time at 10:18 a.m.
A COMMUNITY MOURNS
Since Romero Martinez’s death, a memorial has been growing in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood. Hispanic community members who live and work along Lake Street in south Minneapolis are very close, and say that Romero Martinez had immigrated to Minnesota from Mexico for a better life.
Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up for Romero Martinez’s family: One for her mother’s side of the family and one for her father’s side of the family. They are raising money to bring her back home to Mexico to be laid to rest.