Missing since in December 31, 1995 from Brooklyn, New York City, New York
Classification: Endangered Missing
Circumstances of Disappearance
Justina Morales was last seen in November 1995. Residents on Halsey Street, where Justina lived, said Justina's mother told them Justina had gone to live with her father in November 1995. There was no sign of the child at the home of the father, who lived out of town. Justina's mom had withdrawn her from Public School 1 in November 1995. The bureau of child welfare had an active case file on Justina before her disappearance.
In February of 1997 a relative of Justina's informed the police that she had been missing and possibly killed. Her mother's boyfriend, Luis Santiago, was charged in her death. At Santiago's trial in 1997, it was brought to light that he had physically abused Justina for several years both physically and sexually, and that he had beaten her to death on New Year's Eve 1995 after she had refused to take a bath. Mr. Santiago has admitted to beating Justina's head with his fist and a metal pipe. Two years after Justina's murder, Santiago was sentenced to 6 to 19 years in prison.
The mother of Justina Morales was sentenced to five years on probation after earlier admitting she had agreed with her boyfriend's determination to kill her daughter. She pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution -- for helping her boyfriend, Luis Santiago, dispose of Justina's body after he killed her -- under an agreement in which she testified against him in return for a prosecution recommendation of probation.
The police have not found Justina's body, which they believe was heavily wrapped in plastic and disposed of in a trash can in one of two vacant lots in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Police believe Justina's body was carted away with the refuse when the lot was last cleaned.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
New York City Police Department
New York Post
The New York Times
Return to the Unexplained Disappearances' Index