Deltona, FL – Nearly two years after a 40-year-old Deltona woman was found dead in a wooded area near Ormond Beach, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office says her ex-boyfriend murdered her during some sort of fight.
49-year-old Orlando Cruz-Romero (above) – already in federal custody in his native Puerto Rico – now faces a second-degree murder charge in the death of Maria Marquez-Rivera (below).
VCSO spokesperson Andrew Gant tells us it initially started as a missing person case when Marquez-Rivera’s daughter reported her disappearance in October 2016, but it turned into a murder case around two months later when her body was found in a shallow grave near Interstate 95 and U.S. 1.
“Marquez-Rivera was believed to be in the company of her abusive ex, Cruz-Romero,” Gant added. “Detectives learned Cruz-Romero had a history of violence toward the victim, had previously served time in Puerto Rico for homicide and was wanted there for violating his probation by leaving the island.”
VCSO believes Cruz-Romero killed Marquez-Rivera in her home and tried to cover up the evidence inside before taking their 3-year-old son – who was in the home at the time of the murder – to a relative’s house and burying her.
15 days after Marquez-Rivera disappeared, Cruz-Romero was found at a hospital in Detroit (Michigan), where detectives went to interview him.
By then, VCSO had already gone through her Daroca Drive home and her Chevrolet Impala, finding evidence of her blood in the former and her DNA in the trunk of the latter, per Gant.
“While he denied any involvement in Marquez-Rivera’s disappearance, the U.S. Marshals Service arrested Cruz-Romero for violating his probation and for the theft of the Impala,” Gant stated. “Detectives also obtained evidence of identity theft that would eventually lead to his conviction in Puerto Rico.”
Cruz-Romero is currently serving 30 months in federal prison for that.
The Impala was found in a parking lot somewhere in the northeastern United States four days after Marquez-Rivera disappeared.