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Elizabeth, N.J. Man Pleads Not Guilty After Wife Is Found Slain

Karla Villagra-Garzon

Karla Villagra-Garzon, 33, has been missing from her Elizabeth, N.J. home for more than a week. (Credit: Elizabeth Police)

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ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — An Elizabeth, N.J. man has pleaded not guilty to charges that he killed his wife.

A public defender entered the plea for Abayuba Rivas, 39, during a court hearing Monday, the Star-Ledger reported. Rivas remained jailed on $2 million bail Monday night.

Karla Villagra-Garzon, 32, was found by police late this past Tuesday in a vacant home on Southern Boulevard in Chatham Township, Morris County – about 20 miles from Elizabeth, Union County prosecutors said.

Garzon, the mother of a 2-year-old, was reported missing by her husband – Abayuba Rivas, 39 – after disappearing the night of Feb. 23, police said. She reportedly walked out of her home in the 800 block of East Jersey Street to go to a Walgreens drugstore at 600 Newark Ave. in Elizabeth to get medicine for the child, and was not seen again.

Sources said he even gave news interviews about his wife’s disappearance, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.

But following an investigation by Elizabeth police, the Union County Homicide Task Force, and the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit, Rivas was identified as the prime suspect in Garzon’s murder, police said.

Acting Union County Prosecutor Grace Park would not say what led police to the abandoned house, or how long they think Garzon’s body had been there.

Rivas has been charged with first-degree murder and other offenses in Garzon’s death, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, an autopsy by the Union County Medical Examiner’s office has revealed that Garzon’s cause of death was asphyxiation, with blunt force trauma contributing, prosecutors said.

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