Missing LA community college student found dead

A 21-year-old community college student who vanished in September was found dead earlier this week buried in a shallow grave off a California highway, according to reports.
Juan Carlos Hernández was discovered Sunday by detectives off Interstate 15, about 40 miles northeast of Barstow, nearly two months after he disappeared, The Los Angeles Times reports.
A 21-year-old community college student who vanished in September was found dead earlier this week buried in a shallow grave off a California highway, according to reports. Juan Carlos Hernández was discovered Sunday by detectives off Interstate 15, about 40 miles northeast of Barstow, nearly two months after he disappeared, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Credit: Social media photo via Twitter

Credit: Social media photo via Twitter

2 suspects arrested after remains discovered buried off California highway

A 21-year-old community college student who vanished in September was found dead earlier this week buried in a shallow grave off a California highway, according to reports.

Juan Carlos Hernández was discovered Sunday by detectives off Interstate 15, about 40 miles northeast of Barstow, nearly two months after he disappeared, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Two suspects were arrested Thursday in connection with the case, the Times reports. Ethan Astaphan, 27, and Sonita Heng, 20, are both being held on suspicion of murder.

Authorities have not revealed whether the crime was random or how the pair came to be acquainted with Hernández.

Police also said Hernández “was most likely the victim of a crime” although an autopsy has not yet determined the official cause of death.

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Family reported him missing on September 22 after he clocked out from his job at a marijuana dispensary but never arrived home.

His shift ended at 10 p.m., around the same time that Hernández sent his mother a text saying he would be home soon.

What happened next is a mystery.

Reports say he drove to work that day in his mother’s car, which police discovered two days later, abandoned two miles from the dispensary.

A week after Hernández went missing, several people contacted his family demanding ransom money in exchange for the man’s safe return, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. But detectives later determined those callers were not involved in the matter.

Hernández’s mother, Yajaira, mounted an urgent campaign to bring attention to the case and apparently put her own phone number on some of the 50,000 fliers she posted around the city.

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

On Thursday, she said, two detectives knocked on her door with the sad news of her son’s death, the Times reported.

“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.”

Affectionately known as “Cookie,” Hernández had been looking forward to graduating from El Camino College in Torrance and transferring to the University of Southern California, where he would study engineering, family told the Times.

As the weeks passed with no signs of Hernández, the family led protests outside City Hall and LAPD headquarters to pressure officials to look deeper at the case.

The man’s birthday passed on Oct. 15 as his face appeared on missing posters around the city and even wider on social media.

Then, on Nov. 15, LAPD detectives found Hernández’s remains buried in a shallow grave off Afton Canyon Road, near Interstate 15.

The case remains under investigation.

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