Details of Disappearance
Moreno-Acevedo was last seen at her apartment in the 30 block of East Main Street in Freehold, New Jersey on the morning of February 20, 2003. She has never been heard from again.
Foul play is suspected in Moreno-Acevedo's disappearance. While her remains have not been found, police are investigating her disappearance as a homicide. They think she was murdered sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. the day of her disappearance.
Moreno-Acevedo was reported missing on February 21, one day after she was last seen. Later that day, a woman was seen throwing a plastic trash bag out the window of Moreno-Acevedo's home into an alley. Police recovered and opened the bag and found articles of clothing and boots. The items were bloodstained and there were three holes, resembling stab holes, in the shirt that was found. The clothing is being subjected to forensic testing to see if the blood is Moreno-Acevedo's.
One of Moreno-Acevedo's roommates, Francisca Martinez, was arrested that same day and charged with fourth degree tampering with evidence and third degree hindering apprehension. Martinez was also reportedly Moreno-Acevedo's lover. She was the one who threw the clothes out the window.
On February 20, Martinez took a taxicab to West New York, New Jersey. She paid $130 for the trip and had with her two suitcases so heavy the driver had trouble carrying them. He dropped her off at Kennedy Boulevard in front of the office of Martinez's plastic surgeon, which was not open for business at the time. At 12:30 p.m. that day, she returned to Freehold without any luggage.
That same morning, two men in a black van were seen driving away with a rolled-up blanket or carpet they removed from Moreno-Acevedo's apartment building. Police say a blanket is in fact missing from her apartment.
Blood was found in Martinez's bedroom and elsewhere in her apartment, and broken pieces of her fingernails. A broken knife handle was also found in her bedroom; authorities say the blade it was once attached to would have matched the holes in the shirt they found in the alley.
Martinez admitted to investigators that Moreno-Acevedo has been murdered but blamed the crime on a third woman and ex-lover of Moreno-Acevedo who also shared their apartment. Martinez claims the woman and Moreno-Acevedo got into a fight and Moreno-Acevedo was stabbed to death.
Martinez says she became frightened and fled the apartment, and when she returned later Moreno-Acevedo's body was gone and her roommate told her to help clean up the spilled blood and not to tell anyone about the crime. The roommate was the one who filed the missing person report for Moreno-Acevedo; police do not believe she was in fact involved in her presumed homicide.
It is believed that Moreno-Acevedo's presumed death may have something to do with Santeria, a religion practiced in the Caribbean which combines elements of Roman Catholicism and African religions. The religion involves animal sacrifices but forbids human sacrifice.
Martinez is a follower of Santeria and once paid $7,000 to remove a curse she believed had been cast on her. Investigators are unsure as to how she could afford this, along with $6,000 in plastic surgery, as she was only making $7 an hour at the time of her arrest. Police lack the evidence to charge Martinez with Moreno-Acevedo's murder; she remains in jail and could be deported when she gets out.
Moreno-Acevedo left Colombia three years before her disappearance and was employed as a cleaning woman. She is described as a responsible, well-organized person who called her mother in Colombia daily. Her case remains unsolved.