Joel Bauza, a 50-year-old man from Sanford, Florida, has been arrested and charged with murder in the death of his girlfriend, 49-year-old Joysee Cartagena. The Sanford police made the announcement in a statement on Thursday. Bauza had allegedly suggested to the police that Cartagena had taken her own life.
According to the police statement, a call was received on July 17 reporting that Cartagena was found dead inside their home. Upon arrival, Sanford Fire and Rescue personnel discovered Cartagena with a large zip tie around her neck. She was pronounced dead at the scene despite their attempts to save her.
Initially, Bauza attempted to steer the investigation towards a suicide, but by July 31, the police had begun considering the death as a possible homicide. An autopsy conducted by the Lake County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Cartagena’s cause of death was manual strangulation.
During his court appearance on Friday, it remained unclear whether Bauza had legal representation. On social media, Bauza’s Facebook account indicated that he was married to Cartagena, featuring numerous photos of the couple dating back to 2016.
Friends and loved ones of Cartagena expressed their hope for justice following Bauza’s arrest. Cartagena was described as a radiant woman who positively impacted the community. She was known for her kindness and dedication to her son, whom she protected fiercely.
Cartagena’s son, Steven Rivera Cartagena, shared his grief, stating that his mother was his world. He plans to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor in her memory. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to assist with his college tuition.
The investigation is ongoing; anyone with information is urged to contact the Sanford police.