New Jersey

New Jersey Man Convicted of Killing Wife, Dumping Body in Abandoned Home

What to Know

  • NJ man was convicted of killing his wife and dumping her body in a vacant home miles away, prosecutors say
  • Union County Prosecutor’s Office said Monday Abayuba Rivas, 43, was found guilty of numerous charges including aggravated manslaughter
  • Rivas, of Elizabeth, now awaits sentencing pending a hearing scheduled for Aug. 24

A New Jersey man was convicted of killing his wife in the home they shared with their young child and dumping her body in an abandoned home miles away, authorities say.

The Union County Prosecutor’s office announced Monday that a jury found Abayuba Rivas, 43, guilty of first-degree aggravated manslaughter, second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, second-degree desecration of human remains, two related weapons offenses, and three counts of hindering apprehension. Rivas, of Elizabeth, was not found guilty of murder.

On Feb. 23, 2014, Rivas allegedly killed 32-year-old Karla Jose Villagra Garzon, stuffed her body in a suitcase and drove to a vacant residence on Southern Boulevard in Chatham Township, where he left her on a mattress in the basement, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Caroline Lawlor.

Rivas reported Garzon missing the following morning, telling authorities that she went out the night before but never returned, Lawlor said.

Subsequently, according to the prosecutor’s office, a citywide search for Garzon ensued, with friends and relatives taking to social media to urge citizens to help find her. Rivas even went on camera for media interviews to ask for help, before eventually confessing to police he allegedly killed her, prosecutors say.

A joint investigation by the Union County Homicide Task Force, Elizabeth Police Department, and New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit led to Rivas being identified as a suspect. He was arrested and held on $2 million bail.

Garzon’s body was found in the vacant home about three weeks after she was reported missing with duct tape binding her hands and covering her eyes and mouth, authorities say, adding that an autopsy conducted by the Union County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed her cause of death as asphyxiation, with blunt-force trauma as a contributor.

Rivas had his bail revoked following the verdict Monday and was taken into custody. He now awaits sentencing pending a hearing scheduled for Aug. 24.

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