By Dakin Andone, CNN
Updated: Fri, 14 Jan 2022 20:10:33 GMT
Authorities in Fresno County, California, have arrested a man on suspicion of murdering his missing girlfriend, whose body has still not been found more than a month after she was last seen.
Ramon Jimenez, 41, is being held in the Fresno County Jail on charges of murder and domestic violence after the disappearance of 30-year-old Missy Hernandez, also known as Missy Perez, according to the Fresno County Sheriff's Office.
Hernandez's body has not been located, authorities said in a news conference Thursday. But Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp indicated her office is confident it can successfully prosecute the case, even without a body. It will be the first time in Fresno County a murder case is prosecuted without a body since 1974, said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.
It's unclear if Jimenez had legal representation who would comment on his behalf.
Smittcamp said Thursday Jimenez had appeared in court with a public defender, but his arraignment was continued and his next hearing was set for March 22, at which point an attorney would officially be appointed to his case. The Fresno County Public Defender's Office declined to comment Friday.
Hernandez was last seen at an art show in downtown Fresno on December 7, 2021, with Jimenez, Mims said in a news conference Thursday. Her friends contacted the sheriff's office for a welfare check the next day, after they could not get in contact with her.
A deputy responded to her home that afternoon, Mims said, and while he didn't find Hernandez, he did "make contact" with Jimenez. The deputy had researched the address on the way, Mims told reporters, and recognized Jimenez as a suspect wanted for a domestic violence incident against Hernandez at the same address in October.
The next day, Hernandez's friends went to her home, where they found "evidence that she may be injured and need help," Mims said. She did not provide more details about what Hernandez's friends found.
Jimenez has been in custody since he was arrested on December 8 and is ineligible for bail, Mims said. Meantime, investigators have gathered "an overwhelming amount of forensic and digital evidence," Mims added, including "DNA indicating a violent act took place at Missy's home."
"Based on the evidence and the length of time Missy's been gone, detectives have reason to believe that she is dead," Mims said, "and Jimenez is responsible for her death."
While Mims declined to outline all of the evidence in the case, she did say it included "a lot of blood at the scene," as well as "digital evidence from many sources."
The Fresno County Sheriff's office declined to provide CNN with arrest reports for Jimenez, citing the ongoing investigation.
Jimenez faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison if found guilty, Smittcamp told reporters.
She acknowledged it is "very difficult to prosecute a homicide case ... without an actual dead body to show evidence of at a trial." But given the work of investigators, "we are confident that we will be able to successfully prosecute this case and prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that this person very violently murdered Missy Hernandez."