CAMDEN, N.J. - A New Jersey woman was buried alive in a shallow grave by her landscaper after he offered to drive her to buy a new car, police said Thursday as he and another man were arraigned on murder charges.
Fatima Perez was reported missing on Monday evening, the same day she left her Camden home to buy the car. The body of the 41-year-old woman was found Wednesday in Monroe Township, about 20 miles away.
Perez's mouth and eyes were covered with duct tape before she was buried, authorities said. An autopsy determined she died of asphyxiation.
Landscaper Carlos Alicea-Antonetti, of Camden, and one of his employees, Ramon Ortiz of Pennsauken, told investigators they buried her alive, according to authorities. Perez had previously employed Alicea-Antonetti.
Both men applied for public defenders at their arraignment, where they were ordered held on $5 million bail each.
Investigators said Alicea-Antonetti, the owner of Villa Coamo Landscaping and General Maintenance, picked up Perez on Monday in his van to drive her to buy the car. She carried $8,000 for the purchase, according to her family.
According to a probable cause statement, Alicea-Antonetti told police he argued with Perez and she fell out of his van. He said despite being injured, Perez got back into the vehicle and was lying in the back when he stopped to pick up Ortiz.
Court papers said Alicea-Antonetti told detectives he and Ortiz bound and blindfolded Perez before driving to a wooded location where they dug a hole and dumped the woman in it, then poured lime over her and attempted to conceal the ditch by covering it with branches and debris. The suspects told police that Perez was still alive when they left her.
Detectives tracked the two men down after Perez's family said she had told them of her car-buying errand.
Police said Alicea-Antonetti had more than $7,000 in cash on him at the time of his arrest.