Updated: Jan 9, 2019
The Elizabeth man accused of strangling his wife and leaving her body in an abandoned house four years ago has been convicted by a Union County jury, the Union County Prosecutor's Office announced Monday.
Abayuba Rivas, 43, killed his wife, Karla Jose Villagra-Garzon in March 2014. The couple had a 2-year-old daughter at the time.
Authorities said he stuffed her body in a suitcase and drove her to a vacant, unkempt ranch house in Chatham Township, about 19 miles from Elizabeth. He dumped her body on a mattress in the basement, the prosecutor's office said.
The jury convicted Rivas on charges of aggravated manslaughter, endangering the welfare of a child and desecration of human remains, as well as two weapons offenses and three counts of hindering apprehension. He was not found guilty of murder.
Rivas also repeatedly lied to authorities while the crime was under investigation, the prosecutor's office said.
The morning after he left her body at the Chatham house, Rivas reported Villagra-Garzon missing. He told police she went out the night before to buy medicine for their daughter.
This launched a citywide search for Villagra-Garzon, while family and friends urging the public to help find her. Her picture quickly spread around social media.
But nearly three weeks after Rivas reported her missing, Villagra-Garzon's body was recovered from the abandoned house, with duct tape binding her hands and covering her mouth and eyes.
Police said Villagra-Garzon died from asphyxiation, and blunt-force trauma contributed to it.
Rivas, who had repeatedly appeared on camera for media interviews to plead for public assistance in the search, ultimately confessed to killing Villagra-Garzon.
The couple's daugher, Valentina, now lives with Garzon's cousin, Maria Saez.
Relatives, who set up the Facebook page "Let's Find Karla Villagra"while she was missing, said they were relieved the case has finally come to an end.
"We are extremely excited, because Karla will finally be done justice," her family wrote in Spanish over Facebook.
Rivas had his bail revoked following the verdict. He now awaits a sentencing hearing, scheduled for August 24.
REPRINTED FROM nj.com