Missing Calif. College Student Is Found Dead in Shallow Grave, and 2 Suspects Have Been Arrested

Juan Carlos Hernández was last seen leaving work on Sept. 22

Juan Carlos Hernandez
Juan Carlos Hernández . Photo: gofundme

The month-long search for a missing California college student came to an end earlier this week when his body was found in a shallow grave in the desert.

On Nov. 20, the Los Angeles Police Department announced in a press release that the body of 21-year-old Juan Carlos Hernández had been found in a shallow grave dug off Interstate 15 in San Bernardino County.

Four days later, investigators arrested Ethan Astaphan, 27, and Sonita Heng, 20, on suspicion of Hernández’s murder, according to the release.

Hernández, a student at El Camino College, was reported missing by family on the night of Sept. 22. He was last seen leaving his job at a marijuana dispensary in South Los Angeles earlier that night and had sent his mother a text saying he'd be home soon, according to the Los Angeles Times.

He was never heard from again.

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On Sept. 24, authorities found his car about two miles from his job.

Over the next eight weeks, Hernández's family worked hard to raise awareness for their missing loved one, handing out fliers, picketing outside police headquarters demanding action and asking local officials to issue a reward.

“We want him back. We want to be able to be with him as we've always been,” Hernández's mother, Yajaira Hernández said at an LA City Council meeting on Oct. 13, NBC Los Angeles reports. "The community, we're all still searching. I just urge you to put yourself in my shoes."

A GoFundMe started to help the family with expenses has raised nearly $21,000 of its $25,000 goal.

On Thursday, Hernández was informed of the investigator's discovery.

“This isn’t the outcome we ever wanted or thought we’d get,” Yajaira told the Times. “But I still feel blessed that we found his body.”

The investigation remains ongoing.

Anyone with information regarding Hernández' murder is urged to contact investigators at (213) 486-6840. Tipsters may also go to www.lapdonline.org, and click on "Anonymous Web Tips."

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