On The Case With Paula Zahn is in Lake Worth, Florida, to investigate the tragic death of a young mother, Minerva Cantu, who was brutally suffocated to death in her home during a robbery.
Minerva Cantu was a 26-year-old mother of two, but tragedy struck this young family on November 27, 1990, when Jefer Negron burst into the home looking for jewelry to steal.
Minerva made money by selling jewelry at a nearby flea market, and on this day, Jefer Negron was determined to get his greedy hands on it.
Negron bound Minerva’s hands and feet with a telephone cord, and he wrapped a towel and duct tape around her head, which led to her suffocating to death.
Minerva’s 18-month-old son had been in a crib in the next-door room, but thankfully he was left unharmed.
At the time, the police were suspicious of Negron, but they were hampered by a lack of evidence, meaning the killer walked free.
Negron managed to avoid justice for 26 years until a cold case unit at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office decided to take a fresh look at the evidence.
DNA evidence pointed to Jefer Negron
Advancements in DNA forensic science led to Negron’s arrest. Officers compared his DNA with samples retrieved from under Minerva’s fingernails, and from the shirt she was wearing when killed; it was a match.
The prosecution was further bolstered by the testimony of Leroy Anderson, who had told detectives that Negron confessed to him about a year after the murder.
Anderson claimed that Negron told him he had gone to the house to rob jewelry but had been surprised by Minerva. He reportedly told Anderson that he hadn’t realized Minerva had died until some time later.
In 2016, Negron was arrested at his home in South Carolina and was charged with murder. In 2019 he was found guilty and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years. He will be 77 years old when he becomes eligible for parole.
At his sentencing, Negron told the judge: “I was not the one to do that, and I still maintained my innocence. [I] express my deep regret for what happened to the woman and her family. I wouldn’t want my family to go through that.”
More from On The Case With Paula Zahn
Follow the links to read about more murders investigated by Paula Zahn.
Cathy Woods spent 35 years in prison for the 1976 murder of 19-year-old student Michelle Mitchell in Reno, Nevada. However, DNA evidence eventually proved that she was innocent all along. The police now suspect convicted murderer Rodney Halbower of being the true killer.
Police believe that in 1979, Dennis Eagle followed Betty Elias back to her apartment in Oakland, CA., where he raped and murdered her. He evaded justice for the crime for a staggering 37 years before DNA evidence finally caught up with him.
On The Case With Paula Zahn airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.