Almost Laci Peterson, But No Attention

ByABC News

July 27, 2003 -- — When Evelyn Hernandez and her 5-year-old son disappeared on May 1 last year, she had good cause to run away from it all — friends say it was a revelation about her boyfriend Herman Aguilera, the father of her expected child.

Hernandez's friend Twiggy Damy told ABCNEWS how Aguilera seemed upset when Hernandez told him about her pregnancy. "I think he start[ed] seeing this is more serious than what I thought and now she wants something more and he start[ed] kind of backing up," Damy said.

Sensing the change in her beau, Damy said Hernandez called Aguilera's mother to ask her if anything was wrong. "The mom confirmed he was married," Damy said.

On July 24, 2002, Hernandez's body was found floating in San Francisco Bay, just underneath the city's landmark Bay Bridge.

Police have not yet figured out what happened, but five months later, the fate of another young and pregnant woman who mysteriously vanished would become a national obsession.

Earlier this year, her body was also found in San Francisco Bay. That woman's name was Laci Peterson.

Summing Up the Case

Unlike Laci Peterson though, Evelyn Hernandez has not gotten the massive publicity that's become so crucial in helping to solve missing persons cases.

There is no shortage of these cases. In California alone, some 17,000 other women were reported missing last year. And crime statistics show that the murder of women is on the rise.

Criminologists call it "female homicide" and it's increasingly likely to be committed by someone with whom the victim has been close. According to the Justice Department, about a third of female murder victims are killed by an intimate — husbands, boyfriends, lovers.

"It's extremely rare for a woman to disappear during her pregnancy. But if that does happen, the number one cause of death is murder," said San Francisco police inspector Holly Pera.

Police do not know if this was the case with Evelyn Hernandez. But there are suspicions.

Hernandez's friends say that even after learning Aguilera was married to another woman, she had a firm anchor to keep her in place — her son Alex, and her new baby.

"She was very pleasant — very calm — very focused on Alex and very focused on the new baby," said friend Berta Hernandez.

Pera said Evelyn had "a little bag packed for herself ready to go to the hospital as mothers that are due to deliver do."

"It looks from her apartment like she was going to come back," Pera said.

Suspicious Clues

A discovery in another part of town has also raised suspicions that Hernandez's disappearance was due to foul play.

It was a wallet with two $20 bills and a check made out to Evelyn Hernandez. It was found just a day or two after she was missing, Pera said. "We think … something happened to her. And … somebody had to get rid of the wallet."

Police interest deepened when they learned just down the block is a gas station used regularly by the limousine company that employed Aguliera.

Evelyn's family also had concerns about Aguilera. "I saw them being angry at each other. I saw him being angry at Evelyn," her sister Raina said.

"She loved the idea of being pregnant and having a baby. But Herman didn't want this baby. He didn't want to support her. And did not want to help her. I could see his facial expression," she said.

Pera said Hernandez was concerned about how she was going to survive, and that Hernandez told Aguilera was she considering taking legal action to insure that she got that child support.

An Alibi, But No Comment

Pera said Aguilera has been aggressively questioned, but he has since hired a lawyer and is no longer cooperating. "After a certain point, you know, he grew weary of it," the San Francisco police inspector said.

Neither Aguliera nor his attorney would speak with ABCNEWS on camera. But the lawyer did say his client had absolutely nothing to do with Evelyn's disappearance.

He also has an alibi. On the night police think Evelyn vanished Aguliera says he was home with his wife.

Pera has also questioned Aguilera's wife. "She knew that Evelyn had been in her husband's life, she discovered that, at some point, and was reassured by her husband that he had broken off the relationship," she said.

However, Pera said Aguilera's wife did not know Evelyn was carrying his child, and that the police broke that news to her.

"She has maintained though, that that her husband came home to her right after driving for the limousine company, and she has provided an alibi for him, in that he was home for the entire night," Pera said.

"She loves him, she's been with him for many many years and she's standing by him," she said.

An Invisible Community

Pera said Aguilera is not a suspect but police were looking at him and we are looking at other men in Hernandez's life and other people that were close to her.

"We do not have a formal suspect at this time," Pera said. However, she said she realizes this is "a very, very important case."

"My gosh … we have three victims. We have Evelyn, her 5-year-old son and a baby. All three of them are very,very innocent victims," the police official said.

Evelyn Hernandez's sister is angry. "I loved my sister. I adored her. I loved my Alex. I loved the baby that she was going to bear," she said.

Her friend Damy is also upset that the police don't have any suspects and wonders if extra media attention could have helped.

"We are part of a community that is usually not seen. That is invisible. And it was the case of Evelyn," Berta said.

"It's already more than a year. And it still it hasn't happened. So that is really bad," said Damy.

This story aired on a special Primetime, July 21, 2003.

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