A Maryland woman who was missing for five days was found dead Friday outside a shopping center, and police say a coworker killed her after she tried to break off their relationship.
Dania Mendez de Guerra died after she was attacked by 47-year-old Elmer Marilan Campos-Martinez, Montgomery County police say. She was 21 and had moved to the U.S. in January in search of a better life.
"It does look like they were romantically involved," said Ramon Korionoff, spokesman for the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office.
De Guerra's husband reported her missing on Monday after she never got home from working the night shift at the KFC restaurant on University Boulevard West in Wheaton, police said. She had never failed to return home to her husband and 4-year-old child.
Through their missing person investigation, police said they learned de Guerra was in a relationship with Campos-Martinez.
On Friday, authorities received a 911 call about 3:30 p.m. about an unresponsive person behind a business at University Boulevard East and Elkin Street in Wheaton, police said. First responders found de Guerra's body next to a dumpster behind a CVS.
De Guerra's cellphone and purse were missing, and there appeared to be trauma to her body, police said.
A medical examiner ruled her death was a homicide by "multiple blunt force trauma and asphyxia."
A regular customer of the KFC remembered her as kind.
"She was nice. Always pleasant and friendly," he said.
After de Guerra's body was found, detectives interviewed Campos-Martinez. He said he had been in a relationship with her, and he and de Guerra were working at the KFC on Sunday night, according to police.
Police said Campos-Martinez confessed that he and de Guerra got into an argument outside after work, and de Guerra was upset with him and wanted to end the relationship.
Campos-Martinez said he punched her three times and pushed her to the ground, where she hit her head, police said. He said de Guerra appeared unresponsive. He then took her purse and cellphone, fled the area in a taxi and threw her stuff in a dumpster, police said.
Campos-Martinez was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He appeared in court Monday and was ordered held without bond.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued an immigration detainer against him on Saturday, meaning he could be deported. Campos-Martinez was deported from the U.S. to his home country of El Salvador in 1994 and reentered the U.S. illegally, an ICE spokesman said in a statement.
The KFC restaurant where de Guerra and Campos-Martinez worked closed early Saturday after coworkers said they were too distraught after de Guerra's death.
People who knew de Guerra said she was originally from El Salvador and had lived in the U.S. for less than a year.
A representative for KFC gave News4 the following statement:
“We are shocked and saddened by this senseless tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and coworkers of our team member, Dania . The KFC family is grieving with them, and we are committed to doing everything we can to support them during this difficult time. We are offering support and counseling services for both the family and our team members affected by this tragedy. We would also like to express our appreciation to the local authorities, including the Montgomery County Police Department. We will continue to do everything we can to aid their investigation.”