Episode 024: Missy Hernandez

January 24, 2022

When an artist goes missing after an art show in Fresno, her family and friends won’t stop until they know the truth. What happened to Missy?

Episode Media
Missy Hernandez (Fresno County Sheriff’s Office)
Missy and her cat (Facebook)
Ramon Jimenez (Fresno County Sheriff’s Office)
Dive teams searching the aqueducts (Fresno County Sheriff’s Office)
Aerial view of aqueduct where Missy’s body was found (Fresno County Sheriff’s Office)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week I’m bringing you a fresh case that is still unfolding. This episode discusses sensitive topics, so listener discretion is advised.

In December of 2021, 30-year-old Missy Hernandez was living in southern California with her 11-year-old daughter, pet dog, and 9 hairless cats. She was social and popular and could get along with anyone.

Missy was also very creative and had a knack for business. She often traveled between Los Angeles and Fresno, selling crystals and handmade jewelry at local markets and art fairs. She enjoyed meeting new people and connecting with customers at these events, which she attended several times a week.

On December 7th, Missy attended an art show in downtown Fresno with her boyfriend, 41-year-old Ramon Jimenez. Afterwards, the couple presumably went home, but Missy didn’t check in with any of her friends or family like she usually would after an event.

By the next day, Missy’s friends were starting to get concerned. No one had heard from Missy all day, and she wasn’t responding to calls or texts, which was very unusual. Finally, they contacted local police and asked for a welfare check.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office sent a deputy to Missy’s home. On his way there, the deputy searched Missy’s address in the police database and discovered that there had been a report of domestic violence at the home back in October. At the time, the responding officers took Missy’s statement, but they could not locate Ramon. He had apparently been evading arrest for the last few months.

Now, as the deputy approached Missy’s home, he was prepared when Ramon answered the door. Ramon was immediately taken into custody and booked into the county jail on domestic violence charges.

Although Ramon was now behind bars, Missy was still unaccounted for. On December 9th, the day after Ramon’s arrest, Missy’s friends used a spare key to enter her house to see if they could find anything that would indicate where Missy had gone or who she might be with. What they found was clear evidence that someone had been injured in the home. They immediately contacted the police, who began a thorough investigation.

A spokesperson from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office told reporters that Missy’s disappearance was being treated as suspicious and that she was officially considered a missing person. “We went to a location to check for her, and could not find her. We’ve continued to try and track her down but now here we are a few days later. There’s been no sign of her.” They also asked for the public’s help in finding Missy, saying that anyone who knew Missy or may have seen her in the last week should contact the Sheriff’s Office with whatever information they may have.

Missy’s family was on the front lines of the search. Her sister Daisy flew up from Texas, putting up flyers around Fresno and speaking with local news outlets. “I have felt very anxious, worried that she’s out there somewhere and she needs help… We are wanting her to come home. We need answers. I think we all deserve to know where she is at or what happened.”

Missy’s niece Dolly spread awareness of Missy’s case on social media and on local and national news networks. She told KMPH news, “She generally always checks in no matter what… If she’s going through a hard time or just needs to take time away or you know, isn’t really talking to anyone, she always checks in with my mother. And she hasn’t done that this time so that’s how we know that there is something wrong.”

As Ramon Jimenez sat in jail, the investigation continued. A judge agreed to hold Ramon on the domestic violence charges without bail, since he was considered a person of interest in Missy’s disappearance. This agreement gave investigators time to collect evidence and continue searching for Missy without fear of Ramon skipping town.

And it paid off. Over the next month, investigators collected “an overwhelming amount of forensic and digital evidence.” According to Missy’s niece, the last message Missy sent on December 7th indicated that she was afraid of Ramon. Then, her phone was turned off.

When Missy had still not been found by mid-January, authorities announced that they were moving from a missing persons case to a homicide investigation. On January 11, 2022, they charged Ramon Jimenez with the murder of Missy Hernandez.

The Fresno County District Attorney’s office was confident that they could prosecute the case without a body, even though it hadn’t been done in Fresno since 1974. The amount of evidence that had been collected over the month-long investigation – including DNA – would help them build their case against Ramon.

But in the end, they would have a body after all. On Sunday, January 16th, dive teams from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office recovered the body of Missy Hernandez from the California Aqueduct, a 400-mile system of canals and tunnels that runs throughout the Golden State.

Digital evidence had led search teams to multiple locations, including areas of Interstate 5 and Highway 198 in western Fresno County. But the ground searches were unsuccessful, so authorities made the decision to search a specific area of the aqueduct near Huron, about 45 miles from Missy’s home in Fresno.

The dive was difficult and dangerous, with only a few feet of visibility due to the presence of silt in the water. Slowly and carefully, the divers searched for hours. Finally, they found what they were looking for. Missy’s body was just beneath the surface, weighted down. After photographing the underwater crime scene with special camera equipment, the divers used air-filled lift bags to bring Missy up to the surface.

Although it wasn’t the ending anyone hoped for, it did bring a small measure of closure to Missy’s friends and family. Her niece Dolly posted on Facebook thanking the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office for their hard work and expressing her gratitude for everyone’s support and prayers. “Although we are completely broken with her being taken away in such a horrible way, we are thankful to have her so she can finally Rest In Peace.”

Ramon Jimenez is still being held at the Fresno County Jail and has been charged with murder and domestic violence. He has not yet entered a plea to either charge. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 22nd of this year. If tried and convicted, he faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Missy Hernandez was a kind, caring woman who loved her family, her daughter, and her pets. She deserved to live a long and happy life, but sadly, she became a victim of an abusive man who took her away far too soon.

Missy’s sister Daisy shared a message for those who may be struggling with similar situations. “If anybody out there is going through a situation like that, do not be afraid, to not just call your friends but also family members.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788. Help is available 24/7 – it is free and confidential. Domestic abuse is not your fault. You deserve to be safe, so please reach out for help.