The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
RALEIGH — A 20-year-old man has been charged with killing a 20-year-old woman, days after she was found dead in her Hillsborough Street apartment, Raleigh police said Wednesday.
Christina Maria Matos was found dead in the second-floor apartment she shared with two roommates, near the N.C. State University campus, after the Raleigh Police Department followed up on a welfare call Sunday night.
Erick Gael Hernandez-Mendez has been charged with murder and transported to the Wake County Detention Center.
Matos and Hernandez-Mendez were in the graduating class at Clayton High School last year, according to the Johnston County Report.
Abraham Matos said Hernandez-Mendez was his sister’s roommate in the Signature 1505 apartment complex.
Raleigh police have not said how Matos was killed, how Hernandez-Mendez knew her or provided a possible motive in the case.
Matos’ birthday was on Friday. One of her friends threw a party for her Thursday night that lasted into Friday morning.
A day later, after her family in Clayton did not hear from the usually responsive texter, they drove to Raleigh. When she still didn’t respond, they called the police.
Police released the 911 call that reported Matos missing.
“I have a concern about a missing person,” the 911 caller said. “I was really curious if her family called in about it. I have her address, I know where she was last seen. It was on Friday.”
Abraham Matos, 22, said he lost track of how long he and his parents waited for his sister at the apartment.
“She is someone I loved so, so much. And I know from experience that she had the biggest heart that I know of,” he said.
Her family said Tuesday that police still had not told them how she died.
“On Sunday, it is Holy Week and the police come tell me your daughter’s missing. What?” her mother, Yolanda Matos, said in an interview Tuesday night.
“Something happened to Christina, something (could) happen to another one, you never know,” she said.
Vigil outside apartments
Tuesday night, about 50 mostly college-age people gathered on Hillsborough Street to remember Matos.
They held pink heart-shaped balloons and silver alphabet-shaped balloons that spelled out “queen” outside the Signature 1505 apartments. Candles surrounded several photos.
“What happened to her, it can happen to anybody” said Yolanda Matos.
Everyone then released their balloons, and they floated up into the night sky.
Matos took classes at Wake Tech in the fall, but was not enrolled in the spring semester, a school spokesperson told The News & Observer.
Matos was a former server at Jonathan’s Sports Lounge & Grill, according to the bar’s Facebook page. Matos’ father Gerardo Mato said his daughter worked as a waitress at Mango’s Nightclub.
“She was working two jobs,” her brother said. “She made sure to pay all her bills and she liked to gift herself for the hard work she’d done.”
Matos loved tattoos that had a deeper meaning. She had one for the place she was born, New York, and had others for good faith in life.
“She made me proud,” Abraham Matos said. “She turned her life around and did so much good and she was starting to become one of the most successful people in the family.”
‘She was my princess’
What most shocked Matos’ family was that she was living in a safe neighborhood where other students live.
“I don’t want to see anyone the age of my daughter to be killed like Christina,” said her father.
Gerardo Matos said he taught his daughter how to survive and how to fight in life. She had a very busy schedule, and was responsible, he said.
“Every teenager is fighting for their future,” he said. “But she was my princess.”
Christina Matos was very close to her family and would always answer the phone if someone called, Gerardo Matos said. But this time, she didn’t.
The last message from him that he knows she saw wished her a happy birthday. She responded, “Thank you” with a white heart emoji at the end.
“I want justice,” Gerardo Matos said. “I want to know who killed my daughter.”
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