Minneapolis man charged in killing of 19-year-old, being held in Ohio

Yadhira Romero Martinez (credit: GoFundMe)

A Minneapolis man was charged with intentional second-degree murder in the death of a 19-year-old woman who disappeared after leaving work, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

Jose Cuenca-Zuniga, 23, was charged in the death of Yadhira Romero Martínez. Cuenca-Zuniga is being held in Ohio and extradition proceedings to bring him back to Minnesota have begun.

According to the criminal complaint, Martínez left her job in Bloomington at 4 p.m. on April 22 and a family member became concerned when she did not return home that night. The next morning, the family filed a missing person’s report and Bloomington Police investigators reviewed surveillance video from her employer showing the young woman getting into the passenger seat of a vehicle with Minnesota license plate 504XLJ.

Also on April 23, a woman called the Minneapolis Fire Department asking them to come to her home in the 3000 block of 18th Avenue South because there was an unconscious woman. Firefighters had to break down the locked door to a room in the house and there they found Martínez, dead, with a plastic bag lying across her forehead and wearing only a T-shirt. Her face and neck were bruised and she had what appeared to be handprints outlined in blood on her thighs, according to the criminal complaint.

An autopsy by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office determined she died of multiple traumatic injuries and investigators found an object in the room that could have been the murder weapon, the complaint states.

The homeowner said she rents two of the rooms in her house to others. Cuenca-Zuniga rented the room where Martínez was found. She said she walked by the partially opened door to the room around 7:30 a.m. and saw a woman’s feet on the mattress and Cuenca-Zuniga told her the woman had too much to drink. He packed a bag with clothes and food, locked the door to the room and later that morning drove away, the complaint states.

Jose Daniel Cuenca-Zuniga

About 12:30 p.m., the homeowner went back to the room to check on the woman, but she did not respond to her knocks on the door. Police investigators found surveillance camera video which showed Martínez and Cuenca-Zuniga arriving at the home shortly after 6 p.m. the night before and then Cuenca-Zuniga leaving in the morning, according to the criminal complaint.

Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up for Romero Martinez’s family; Here and here.

Here’s an excerpt from a fundraising page: “Yadhi was a gentle kind soul who was working hard for her family. Her parents reside in Mexico and cannot come to the United States because they are not residents. Most of her life was in Mexico. She was born in the US, but at a early age her family had to migrate back to Mexico with her parents not being able to return. She grew up and a couple years ago she decided to come back to the states in hopes of a better future and opportunity. Her loss has hit our whole family specially my aunt, uncle, and her 2 younger brothers very hard. The last time they saw her was January of 2021 right before her 19th birthday.”

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