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Thread: Juan Carlos Hernandez (21) found dead in a shallow grave weeks after going missing

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    Senior Member JohnLanders's Avatar
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    Juan Carlos Hernandez (21) found dead in a shallow grave weeks after going missing

    A heartbroken mother is pleading for her 21-year-old son back after he went missing in South Los Angeles on Tuesday.

    Yajaira Hernadez says her son, Juan Carlos Hernandez, went to work Tuesday night but never came home.

    ?I woke up at 5:30 in the morning to go to work Wednesday morning and noticed he wasn?t in bed,? she said. ?That?s when I noticed that something was wrong.?

    Juan was last seen working as a clerk at VIP Collective, a cannabis dispensary in South L.A. The security guards at the dispensary say they closed the shop at 10 p.m. and parted ways, according to Yajaira Hernandez.

    ?I?m just thinking my son is probably out there somewhere, either hurt, or possibly dead, because like I said, he couldn?t just have disappeared,? the concerned mother said.

    On Thursday morning, Juan?s mom?s car that he borrowed was found on Figueroa and 64th streets.

    ?What LAPD said, that working girls on Figueroa stated they had noticed the car running for a few hours,? Yajaira Hernandez said. ?It?s a very hot spot where they drop off vehicles and stuff like that.?

    Juan hasn?t called or texted any family or friends, which his mother says is out of character for him.

    His family describes him as a good kid, who was part of a neighborhood academic initiative from USC that prepares students from South L.A. for admission to a college or university.

    ?He?s a great kid, smart, kind, great personality, always helpful,? his mom said. ?If you know anything, report it anonymously. We don?t care at this point who you are. I just need my son back, preferably alive, but if not I just need his body. I need my kid back.?

    Anyone with information is asked to contact the Los Angeles Police Department.

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    Heartbreaking, stay strong and lift up your prayers.

  3. #3
    Senior Member JohnLanders's Avatar
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    Every time he left the house, Juan Carlos Hern?ndez stayed in touch with his loved ones. After leaving work, as he made his way home, he would text his mother and younger brother: “Have you eaten? Want something? I’m going to stop and buy tacos.”

    A week ago, after finishing work for the day, he once again sent a message, saying that he was coming home. But he never got there — and no one knows what happened to him.

    “Juan never gave me a reason to worry,” his mother, Yajaira Hern?ndez, said. “My heart as a mother tells me that he’s out there somewhere, that he’s waiting for us to find him. But my mind is making me think the worst because he hasn’t communicated with any of us.”

    The 21-year-old is a student at El Camino College with a semester left to go before transferring to USC, where he plans to study engineering. He has played sports since before college, and teammates and other friends have taken to posting on social media in the hopes of getting information about his whereabouts.

    Det. O. Cansino of the LAPD’s Missing Persons Unit said Thursday that the case has been moved to the department’s Robbery-Homicide Unit .

    “They took over the investigation pretty much the next day because of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the disappearance,” he said.

    Cansino would not elaborate but said those circumstances were known from “day one, day two of the investigation.”

    “At Missing Persons, we don’t handle anything criminal,” he said. “Once there’s any criminal aspect to the investigation, it’s going to go to a detective division that handles the criminal aspect of it.”

    In a news release Thursday, LAPD officials said Hern?ndez was last seen wearing a black Vans T-shirt with a white “66" on the back, black shorts, black-and-white checkered socks and black shoes. He had a light gray backpack and hoodie in his possession.

    They asked anyone with information about the case to contact the Robbery-Homicide Division at (213) 486-6840 or

    Hern?ndez said her son was called Cookie by friends and family. He didn’t have a car. When he was last seen, he was driving a 2020 Honda Civic he had borrowed from his mother. Two of his best friends saw him just before 3 p.m., when his work shift at a marijuana dispensary started.

    A few minutes before his shift ended around 10 p.m., he sent a text message telling his mother he would see her at home. But early the next morning, about 5:30 a.m., she noticed he wasn’t around. When she went outside, the car was not there.

    “All of my calls went to his voicemail,” she said.

    When Hern?ndez called his workplace, a security guard told her that her son had left just after 10 p.m., like the other employees. Worried, she called the Los Angeles Police Department’s Southwest station.

    On Thursday, the Honda Civic was found about 2:30 a.m. a few miles from where her son worked.

    “The car was intact,” a surprised Hern?ndez said. She said money that had been left inside the car was still there, but none of her son’s belongings were. “Everything was in the car. But there was no sign that my son had even been driving it.”

    Hern?ndez said she has been heartened by support from the community. She described her son as a homebody who likes to sit, covered in a blanket, and play “League of Legends” online with his friends.

    She said that he also likes to jog and that when he was in the 10th grade, he ran in his first marathon. He joined several groups that jogged around the streets of L.A.

    He spent six years studying robotics in the Neighborhood Academic Initiative program, which was run by USC. It’s what inspired him to pursue engineering as a career, his mother said.

    Hern?ndez said she finds herself reflecting on how attentive and affectionate her son is. Sometimes, she said, he would miss work to take his mother to the doctor; he worried about her, especially when she struggled with bouts of depression.

    “He was always very attentive, careful — always supporting me in whatever I needed,” she said.

    After graduating from high school, Juan Carlos Hern?ndez toggled between school and work, including at Target and J.C. Penney, dreaming of raising enough money to buy his own car. At the beginning of 2020, he took a break from school to focus on his job at the dispensary at the corner of Western and 81st Street.

    “He’s a young man with ambitions and dreams,” his mother said. She added that he is also involved in activities at the family’s Catholic church.

    She said that since he disappeared, friends and family members have come together — including from other states — to help search for her son.

    “Keep searching. Keep sharing his photos on social media,” his mother said. “I’m asking police to do whatever they can, to use the resources that I don’t have as a mother. See what they can find in video cameras; maybe they can get people to talk who won’t talk with us.”

    She also delivered a message to her missing son: “To Juan, I want to say that I will not give up. I will be strong, and I will do everything I can to find you. I will move the heavens and the Earth until you come back to us. We love you. We miss you. And we’re all worried about you.”

    Jim?nez writes for Times en Espa?ol. Times staff writer Hayley Smith contributed to this report.

  4. #4
    Don't drink sanitizer! raisedbywolves's Avatar
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    Reward to Be Offered After 21-Year-Old South LA Man Missing for Weeks

    The Los Angeles City Council voted on an emergency motion Tuesday to try to raise $50,000 in reward money for credible information that leads to the whereabouts of Juan Carlos Hernandez, 21, who has been missing for weeks.

    Hernandez was last seen around 3 p.m. on Sept. 22 in the 8100 block of South Western Avenue, according to an updated report from the Los Angeles Police Department.

    Family members, however, said he may have been last seen at work around 10 p.m. that night at VIP Collective LA, a cannabis dispensary in South Los Angeles.

    His vehicle was located around 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 24 in the area of 6400 South Figueroa St., the LAPD stated.

    Hernandez is 6-feet-2 inches tall and weighs 215 pounds, the LAPD said. He has brown hair and brown eyes, and was last seen wearing a gray hoodie, light-colored shorts, long black socks and dark Vans shoes.

    The emergency motion was introduced by Councilman Herb Wesson, who described Hernandez as a "fine young man.''

    "There's an immediate need to act as quickly as possible,'' Wesson said. "(Juan Carlos) had a dream and a desire to be successful so that he could help his family, and he didn't come home that night.''

    Family members a new station earlier this month that Juan was part of a neighborhood academic initiative from USC that prepares students from South Los Angeles for admission to a college or university.

    Yajaira Hernandez, Juan Carlos' mother, attended the City Council meeting remotely and pleaded for the public's help in trying to find her missing son. She said it was uncharacteristic for him to not call or have any communication with family and friends.

    "To this day, there's no news of Juan being anywhere after he left his job,'' Yajaira Hernandez said. "His birthday is on Thursday, and we want him back. We want to be able to be with him as we've always been.

    "The community, we're all still searching. I just urge you to put yourself in my shoes,'' Yajaira added. "Juan's a good kid. He was trying his best to survive, especially during the pandemic.''

  5. #5
    Don't drink sanitizer! raisedbywolves's Avatar
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    Missing community college student found in shallow grave near Barstow

    When Juan Carlos Hern?ndez didn’t come home after clocking out of work in September, his mother mounted a furious public campaign to generate leads and push the police to find the 21-year-old community college student.

    The search came to an end earlier this week, the Los Angeles Police Department disclosed Thursday. Hern?ndez’s body was found in a shallow grave dug off Interstate 15, about 40 miles northeast of Barstow, the department said.

    Detectives arrested two people Thursday in connection with Hern?ndez’s death, Ethan Astaphan, 27, and Sonita Heng, 20, according to the LAPD. Both were booked on suspicion of murder. It couldn’t be determined Thursday evening if they had lawyers who could speak on their behalf.

    Hern?ndez’s family had reported him missing the night of Sept. 22. A student at El Camino College in Torrance, Hern?ndez, known to family and friends as “Cookie,” was a semester shy of transferring to USC, where he planned to study engineering, his mother previously told The Times.

    Hern?ndez was last seen at a marijuana dispensary on the corner of Western Avenue and 81st Street, where on Sept. 22 he worked a shift from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. A few minutes before 10 p.m., he sent his mother a text message saying he’d be home soon. He’d driven her car, a 2020 Honda Civic, to work. Police found the car two days later in the 6400 block of South Figueroa Street, about two miles from the dispensary.

    Within a week of Hern?ndez being reported missing, someone tried to extort money from his family in exchange for his return, the LAPD said. His mother, Yajaira Hern?ndez, said in an interview Thursday that after making the mistake of putting her phone number on an early batch of fliers, she fielded several calls and voicemails demanding ransom.

    The case was turned over to detectives from the department’s Robbery-Homicide Division, who determined the would-be extortionists were not actually involved in Hern?ndez’s disappearance. Still, they believed Hern?ndez “was most likely the victim of a crime,” the LAPD said.

    Meanwhile, Hern?ndez’s family picketed City Hall and LAPD headquarters, voicing frustration at the authorities’ inability to find him. They celebrated his 22nd birthday on Oct. 15 by passing out food on Skid Row, along with kits full of medical and hygiene supplies that also came with missing posters, according to a report in The Union, El Camino College’s student newspaper.

    On Nov. 15, LAPD detectives, San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies and FBI agents exhumed Hern?ndez’s remains from a shallow grave off Afton Canyon Road, near Interstate 15, the LAPD said Thursday.

    Astaphan and Heng, the two people detained in connection with his death, were arrested four days later. The LAPD did not disclose Thursday how they had linked the two to Hern?ndez’s disappearance and death. Hern?ndez’s mother said she did not recognize the suspects’ names.

    In the last eight weeks, Yajaira Hern?ndez passed out and put up more than 50,000 fliers across Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties, she said. She visited every homeless encampment and shelter she could find.

    “L.A. is such a big city, it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” she said.

    She found some comfort among Facebook groups of parents whose children had vanished. Many had been waiting “for months, even years,” she said. “My greatest fear was I’d be one of those people, walking around with a hole in my heart for the rest of my life.”

    On Thursday, she said, two Robbery-Homicide detectives knocked on her door and told her the search was over.

    “This isn’t the outcome we ever wanted or thought we’d get,” she said, “but I still feel blessed that we found his body.”

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  7. #7
    Senior Member Queena's Avatar
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    I wonder what happened. RIP Cookie. He seems as if he was good kid.

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    Two people have been charged after the body of a slain 21-year-old college student from South Los Angeles was found buried outside Barstow nearly two months after he went missing, prosecutors said Monday.

    Ethan Kedar Astaphan, 27, of San Gabriel faces one count of murder while Sonita Heng, 20, of Harbor City was charged with a count of accessory after the fact, according to a Los Angeles County District Attorney’s news release.

    The victim, Juan Hernandez, was last seen on Sept. 22 leaving his home for work at VIP Collective, a cannabis dispensary in South L.A. His family reported him missing when he didn’t come home.

    Hernandez attended El Camino College in Torrance and was set to transfer to the University of Southern California and study engineering, according to the Los Angeles Times.

    “He’s a great kid, smart, kind, great personality, always helpful,” his mother, Yajaira Hernandez, told KTLA a few days after his disappearance. She said her son hadn’t called or texted family or friends, something that was out of character for him.

    Less than a week after he vanished, someone contacted the family and tried to extort money from them for his safe return, the Los Angeles Police Department said. Believing Hernandez was likely the victim of a crime, police called the FBI for help in the case, according to LAPD.

    On Nov. 15, Hernandez’s body was found buried in a shallow grave along Afton Canyon Road east of Interstate 15, in a remote area of the Mojave Desert between Barstow and Baker. Deputies from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department also assisted.

    The San Bernardino County coroner’s office positively identified Hernandez and ruled his death a homicide.

    Astaphan and Heng were identified as suspects and arrested after LAPD detectives and SWAT officers served search warrants at their homes last Thursday. Both were booked on suspicion of murder, but the latter has not been charged with that crime.

    Booking photos weren’t immediately released.

    Authorities have not commented on whether the suspects knew the victim, nor have they revealed a possible motive in the case.

    The defendants are each being held on $10 million bail, according to jail records. They are scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

    If convicted, Astaphan faces a possible maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison, while Heng could face up to three years in prison, according to prosecutors.

  10. #10
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    Sonita Heng

    she posted on facebook like nothing knowing she was involved in killing an innocent person and only facing 3 years.

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