BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Buffalo police say the body of a missing 18-year-old was found in a wooded area.
According to police, the woman's body was recovered in a wooded area south of Delsan Court in Buffalo on Monday. An autopsy performed by the Erie County Medical Examiner identified the victim as 18-year-old Jalia Marrero.
Marrero was reported missing on May 21 and police said at the time she was last seen in Buffalo around May 8 or 9.
Jalia's family said they think Jalia's boyfriend is responsible for her death. They said she was a prisoner of her relationship.
"He used to track her on her phone and cuss her out until she got into the house. Once she got to the house on Donovan Drive, that's where he would meet her and beat her. That's how her relationship was," Norma Coppola, Jalia's cousin, said.
The family said the abusive relationship resulted in her and her father's deaths.
"There's no way she would drug herself, wrap herself up, and put herself in a hole in a field, like a dog. That's what they did to her because she was the only witness to her father's murder. This boy shot him six times at least. There's evidence all over the walls. There's evidence in that house, and she's the only witness. Now, here it is, three weeks later, we have to cremate her because her body was so decomposed. Because three weeks earlier, her father got killed," Coppola said.
Jalia's father, Luis Merraro, was shot and killed on Donovan Drive May 4th. The family said he died trying to protect his daughter.
"Her father tried to protect her, and he shot him dead. He followed him all the way down the steps shooting the gun," Coppola said.
The family said Jalia witnessed her father's murder, but wouldn't cooperate with police out of fear.
"I found her the next day at the memorial to try to get her to talk to police. We had to force her to talk to them. The minute that she talked to them she disappeared. The minute she talked to them she disappeared," David Acevedo, Luis's brother and Jalia's uncle, said.
Three weeks later, Jalia was found dead.
"We want to lay our family to rest, of course, but not live in fear for the rest of our lives. Get this boy off the streets so we can get on with our lives and grieve and mourn our family," Coppola said.
"It's our job as the community, as community leaders, to make sure they should not have to be living in fear anywhere," Pastor Tim Newkirk of GYC Ministries said.
Buffalo Police have not named a suspect in Luis's death. Investigators said they are still waiting for the medical examiner's office to determine if Jalia's death was a homicide.
"It doesn't feel like anything is being taken seriously about these two murders," Acevedo said.
"Get him off the street is what we want. Get him off the street," Coppola said.