A Florida man has been arrested and charged with the murder of his girlfriend after he allegedly suggested to police that she killed herself.
Joel Bauza, 50, was arrested Thursday on a charge of first-degree murder in the killing of 49-year-old Joysee Cartagena, Sanford Police said said in an opinion.
According to the statement, on July 17, police received a call from a person who reported finding Cartagena dead in the house.
When the Sanford fire and rescue crews arrived, they found Cartagena with a large zip tie around her neck and attempted life-saving measures, but she was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Police Chief Cecil Smith said Bauza was trying to pressure authorities into a suicide investigation. But by July 31, they were already considering the death as a possible murder.
“Thanks to the amazing work of the Lake County Medical Examiner’s Office and our major crime investigators, it was clear that Joysee did not take his own life,” Smith said in the police statement.
An autopsy determined that Cartagena’s cause of death was manual strangulation.
“She was a radiant woman who positively impacted the lives of so many people in this community,” Smith added. “We are saddened that Bauza’s actions separated her from her loved ones so prematurely.”
Bauza appeared in court Friday and it wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney.
On Facebook, Bauza’s account implied that he was married to Cartagena and contained many photos of the two from 2016.
Those close to Cartagena reacted to the news of Bauza’s arrest online with the hope that she would finally get justice.
“Not only did you kill her with your own hands, you also violated her beautiful body and put a disgusting thing around her to make it look like she did this to herself,” one person wrote. “You thought you could get away with it, but we’ve been after you from the start!”
Cartagena obituary described her as a “ray of light” who would be remembered for her kindness.
“She was also a great mother who always put her son’s needs first,” the obituary reads. “She was fiercely protective of him from the negative things in life and made sure he knew how much she loved him every day.”
The son, Steven Rivera Cartagena, previously said NBC affiliate WESH that his mother was trying to help others with their jobs at Seminole County Public Schools and JetBlue.
“My mother is my only immediate family who is here in Florida, and when I heard the news that she passed, I felt like an orphan,” Rivera Cartagena told the outlet.
“She was my world. I mean, that’s all I knew,” he added.
Cartagena’s son told WESH he will continue to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor in memory of his mother; A GoFundMe campaign was formed to help him with tuition after her death.