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Officials: Husband May Have Strangled Jersey City Woman

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Steven Acuna and Randy "Amanda" Lehrer (credit: handout/CBS 2)

Steven Acuna and Randy “Amanda” Lehrer (credit: handout/CBS 2)

JERSEY CITY, NJ (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A New Jersey man is being held on $1 million bail after his wife’s remains were found in a Jersey City basement.

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Monica Miller reports

Police say Steven Acuna has been charged with murder after what is believed to be the remains of his wife, 32-year-old Randy “Amanda” Lehrer, were found in a 55-gallon cement-filled drum on Friday at the Charles Street apartment building where they once lived with their infant daughter.

Acuna was scheduled to be arraigned Monday. Authorities say he might have strangled Lehrer.

Investigators have spoken with Lehrer’s parents and they were able to corroborate a tattoo on the body, but officials are still waiting on DNA results to confirm the identity of the remains.

Lehrer was reported missing on August 17 after the two had an argument. Hudson County prosecutor Edward DeFazio says police think the killing is the result of “a domestic violence situation.”

He also says Acuna relocated to Toms River after his wife went missing and was considered a suspect shortly after the young mother’s disappearance.

Police said Acuna had waited three days before reporting his wife missing and told her co-workers she had gone to Canada to visit her ailing mother. Police also said he’s been uncooperative with authorities since the start of their investigation.

The couple’s basement had not been searched until Friday. That’s when police found the remains inside the 55-gallon drum.

Athanasios Diakos, who owns the restaurant where Lehrer worked, said he’s upset that it took so long to find the body inside the house.

“The police should have found it right away,” he told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “It’s a two-family house and they should have searched from the top to the bottom.”

Meanwhile Saturday night, about 200 people gathered outside the apartment building for a candlelight vigil.

April Kusis a good friend of Lehrer and says she is worried about her infant daughter.

“I feel more at peace now that she’s found, but it’s more upsetting for her daughter who is 1-year-old, that’s the most upsetting part of this whole thing,” said Kusis. “Her daughter now doesn’t have a mom and who knows what will happen with the father.”

“We felt really bad. She didn’t deserve that,” said a woman named Margaret, who also knew Lehrer. “She was a nice young lady and a good mom.”

Acuna is being held at the Hudson County Correctional Facility.

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