CAMDEN, N.J. --A woman who was found in a shallow grave in Gloucester County was buried alive, police say, and now two men are facing murder charges.
36-year-old Carlos Alicea-Antonetti of Camden and 57-year-old Ramon Ortiz of Pennsauken are both charged with murder in the death of Fatima Perez.
Perez, 41, was last seen alive Monday morning when she left her home on the 400 block of North 41st Street in Camden.
Her family told investigators that she left with approximately $8,000 in cash to purchase a motor vehicle, and was believed to be in the company of her landscaper, Carlos Alicea-Antonetti.
However, around 11:00 Wednesday morning Perez' body was discovered buried in an open area near Clayton Road between Corkery and Tuckahoe roads in Monroe Township.
Police spoke to Alicea-Antonetti on Wednesday. He allegedly told investigators that he picked Perez up in his van near her home on Monday, and that they had a verbal argument, during which Perez fell out of the van. He says despite being injured in the fall, she got back in his van.
He goes on to claim that while Perez lie injured in the back of the van, he picked up another man, identified as Ramon Ortiz. Alicea-Antonetti says the two tied her up, placed duct tape over her mouth and her eyes, and then drove to the wooded location on Monroe Township where Ortiz dug a hole.
According to police, Alicea-Antonetti then admitted to putting Perez in the hole, poured lime on her and buried her - while she was still alive.
In addition to the confession, police say they seized more than $7,000 in cash from Alicea-Antonetti.
When investigators spoke to Ramon Ortiz, who works for Alicea-Antonetti's landscaping company, he allegedly said Perez was already tied up in the back of the van when he was picked up at a job site in Camden on Monday.
According to police, Ortiz explained that Perez asked him to help her.
However, from there the stories of the two suspects are the same, with Ortiz also allegedly confessing to burying Perez alive.
Ortiz then showed police the location of the grave, where authorities dug up Perez's lifeless body.
"For a woman of her character and her stature to have died in this manner is horrible and very, very traumatic to the family," said Warren Faulk, Camden County Prosecutor.
Perez family gathered just hours after learning she was killed.
"My sister, at least for me, was my guardian angel. She was always there for everybody, not just me but my family, her friends," said Vanessa Castro, victim's sister.
Castro says her sister's trusting nature may have led to her murder. She also added that Perez' priority was protecting her two children.
"My sister would do anything and everything for her kids and I'm sure if my sister had to fight for her life, the reason she was fighting for was for her kids," said Castro.
The autopsy report on Fatima Perez concluded that her death was the result of asphyxiation and ruled the manner of her death to be homicide.
Carlos Alicea-Antonetti and Ramon Ortiz were arraigned Thursday and are being held on $5 million bail.