The family of a New Jersey woman bound, gagged and buried alive at the apparent hands of two landscapers say the woman didn’t deserve to die.
Speaking from South America, Fatima Perez’s mother-in-law, Birtha Justina Estrada, said she nearly fainted at her home in a rural Nicaraguan village after learning the mother of two had been murdered in such a gruesome way.
“I started yelling,” said Estrada, recalling the phone conversation with her son. “This girl didn’t deserve to die this way because she didn’t have any enemies.”
PHOTO: Fatima Perez
Perez, a 41-year-old mother of two from Camden, N.J., caught a ride a friend on Monday night to go purchase a car. But over the course of that ride, authorities say she got into an argument with the man, Carlos Alicea-Antonetti, and was injured from falling out of his landscaping van. The woman got back into the van and laid in the back while Alicea-Antonetti went to pick up his employee Ramon Ortiz, police said.
Ortiz allegedly told detectives the men then tied up Perez, covered her mouth with duct tape before they dug a shallow grave in a wooded area of Monroe Township, N.J. The men then covered her with lime and filled the hole. Ortiz said she was still alive when they buried her, according to prosecutors. Perez’s body was discovered two days later.
Estrada said she had last seen her daughter-in-law eight months ago when Perez came to visit and remains upset over her death.
Police have not yet released an official motive, but officials said she was carrying $8,000 when she left to purchase the car. Detectives said they found about $7,000 in cash on Alicea-Antonetti when he was taken into custody.
Alicea-Antonetti and Ortiz are being held on $5 million cash bail.