The murder of Karla Villagra-Garzon by her husband, Abayuba Rivas, is spotlighted in the latest episode of The Lies That Bind on Investigation Discovery.
On February 24, 2014, Villagra-Garzon, 32, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, was reported missing by her husband, who told police that she went walking to a nearby Walgreens the previous day around 10pm to get medicine for their 2-year-old daughter and never returned.
Rivas, then 39, appeared on television for media interviews about his wife’s disappearance before an investigation by Elizabeth police, the Union County Homicide Task Force, and the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit led to his arrest.
He was initially charged with endangering a child and hindering apprehension, but when Rivas confessed to killing Villagra-Garzon, he was also charged with first-degree murder.
Rivas was held at the Union County Jail on a $2 million bond.
He told police that he strangled his wife to death at their home in the 800 block of East Jersey St. Rivas then stuffed her body in a suitcase. He then drove to an abandoned house 20 miles away on Southern Boulevard in Chatham, leaving their daughter home alone.
Rivas then dumped her body on a mattress in the basement and reported Villagra-Garzon missing the following day.
Police found her body on March 18, 2014. There was duct tape found wrapped around her hands and over her eyes and mouth.
Villagra-Garzon’s remains were transported to the Union County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy. The results indicated that she died from asphyxiation and blunt-force trauma.
In 2018, Rivas was convicted of aggravated manslaughter, endangering the welfare of a child, and desecration of human remains, including two weapon charges and three counts of hindering apprehension.
A Union County jury found him not guilty of murder.
Rivas was sentenced to 32 years in prison.
The Lies That Bind — Letters In The Closet, airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.