For Immediate Release — March 18, 2014

Missing Elizabeth Woman Found Dead; Husband Charged with Murder

An Elizabeth woman who had been missing for three weeks has been found dead, and her husband has been charged with killing her, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Wednesday.

The body of 32-year-old Karla Jose Villagra Garzon was found by police late Tuesday night in a vacant home on Southern Boulevard in Chatham Township, Morris County, about 20 minutes from Elizabeth. Abayuba Rivas, 39, of Elizabeth has been charged with first-degree murder and other offenses in connection with her death, with bail set at $2 million by state Superior Court Judge Joseph P. Donohue.

Garzon, the mother of a 2-year-old child, was reported missing by Rivas the morning after she disappeared on the night of February 23. She reportedly left the couple’s home on the 800 block of East Jersey Street in Elizabeth to walk to a local pharmacy, but never returned.

An intensive joint investigation involving the Elizabeth Police Department, the Union County Homicide Task Force, and the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit led to Rivas being identified as the primary suspect in the case. An autopsy conducted Wednesday by the Union County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that Garzon’s cause of death was asphyxiation, with blunt-force trauma contributing.

Assisting in the investigation were the aforementioned departments, plus 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.

This remains an active investigation. Anyone with information is being urged to contact Union County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Danika Ramos at 908-965-3807.

These criminal charges are mere accusations. Each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.