ELIZABETH — A Union County grand jury has returned indictments against the Elizabeth man accused of murdering his wife last February, then hiding her body in a vacant home and reporting her missing, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace Park announced.
Abayuba Rivas, 40, was indicted Friday on charges of murder, two weapons offenses, desecration of human remains, endangering the welfare of a child, and three counts of hindering apprehension.
The date was Feb. 23, 2014 when Rivas killed 32-year-old Karla Jose Villagra Garzon, then stuffed her body inside a suitcase and dumped it in a vacant residence on Southern Boulevard in Chatham Township, a Morris County municipality approximately 10 miles away from their Elizabeth home, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Caroline Lawlor, who is prosecuting the case.
Rivas reported Garzon missing the next morning, telling authorities at the time that she had left home to walk to a local pharmacy the night before but never returned, Lawlor said. A citywide search for Garzon ensued, boosted by friends and family members who took to social media to urge citizens to help find her.
A joint investigation by the Union County Homicide Task Force, the Elizabeth Police Department, and the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit led to Rivas being identified as a suspect in the case, and he was subsequently arrested and held on $2 million bail.
Garzon’s body was recovered from the vacant home approximately three weeks after she had been reported missing; an autopsy conducted by the Union County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed her cause of death as asphyxiation, with blunt-force trauma contributing.
Also assisting in the investigation were the Union County Sheriff’s Office, Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, Morris County Medical Examiner’s Office, Chatham Township Police Department, and the Chatham Township Volunteer Fire Department.
These criminal charges are mere accusations. Each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.