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A Minnesota family and community are in mourning following the murder of a young woman who was trying to create a “better future” for herself in the United States.
A vigil was held in remembrance of 19-year-old Yadhira Romero Martinez in Minneapolis on Saturday, drawing hundreds to the location near where she was found dead last week, Fox 9 reports. Her suspected killer was arrested on Sunday.
"She was just a really, really bright kid. She had no bad bone in her body. She just wanted to support her family," her cousin, Jun Romero, said, according to Fox 9.
Romero Martinez had recently moved back to Minnesota from Mexico with her younger brother, her family said. A GoFundMe campaign launched in her honor says that Romero Martinez was born in the United States but moved to Mexico with her parents as a child. She decided to come back so that she could have what her family calls a “better future.” Now, her loved ones are raising funds to have her body transported to her parents in Mexico, where she will be laid to rest.
Romero Martinez’ family first contacted the authorities on Friday when the teenager didn't return home from work, according to a criminal complaint as well as a news release from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. She was last seen getting into a vehicle and traveling to a home on 18th Ave. South with a man later identified as 23-year-old Jose Daniel Cuenca-Zuniga. Around noon on Friday, the unnamed owner of that home called police to perform a welfare check on an “unconscious woman” in a rented room in her house, the complaint states.
After firefighters responded to the scene and forced their way inside the room, they found Romero Martinez dead and wearing only a t-shirt, according to the complaint. There was a plastic bag lying on her forehead, bruises were observed on her face and neck, and she had “handprints outlined in a blood-like substance” on her thighs. The bed was also covered in a “blood-like substance” and an object was located in the room that authorities believe could have been the murder weapon. An autopsy later determined Romero Martinez’ manner of death as a homicide caused by multiple traumatic injuries.
Cuenca-Zuniga fled to Ohio but was apprehended. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office on Wednesday charged him with second degree murder without premeditation and set his bail at $1 million. He remains in custody in Ohio as he awaits extradition to Minnesota to face charges, officials said.
Romero Martinez’ family and others in the community want to raise awareness of the violence committed against women of color, The Star Tribune reports.
"I want justice for her, but the overall message that I want people to understand is that this can't keep happening to women," her cousin, Luis Romero Ortiz, told the paper. "We want people to stand up for them and just be vigilant, be observant, and say something if you see something.”
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