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Missing Couple Found Dead in Wayne Garage

Melissa Pereira and Jorge Rodriguez were last seen on Dec. 27.

Jorge Rodriguez, 24, and Melissa Pereira, 25 / Photo courtesy of New Jersey State Police
Jorge Rodriguez, 24, and Melissa Pereira, 25 / Photo courtesy of New Jersey State Police

The bodies of a Wayne resident and her boyfriend were found Sunday inside a parked car in the woman's garage more than three weeks after they were reported missing.

Melissa Pereira, 25, and Jorge Rodriguez, 24, of Garfield, were last seen at Pereira’s Wayne home on Friday, Dec. 27.

Angie Escobar, Rodriguez’s cousin, confirmed the deaths on Sunday evening.

“We don’t want to say anymore information at this point,” Escobar said.

The couple was found about 10:30 a.m. Passaic County Assistant Prosecutor Michael DeMarco said. Authorities are awaiting autopsy results to determine the cause and manner of death.

It was not immediately known how long the bodies were in the garage.

Garfield and Wayne police could not immediately be reached Sunday for comment.

The couple was seen at Kmart buying candles the night they disappeared. Pereira, a Caldwell College grad, didn’t take her wallet and left her jacket at home. Rodriguez also did not call out of work.

They booked a reservation in the Pocono Mountains at the Cherry Valley Manor in Stroudsburg, Pa. However, they never checked in at the bed and breakfast.

“They didn’t even call for a refund,” Escobar previously said.

Over the past few weeks, Pereira's cell phone was in use, but would quickly get turned off.

The state police issued a missing persons alert for the couple on Jan. 13.

A motorist might have picked up a couple matching their description in Hunterdon County on Jan. 7, Garfield police said.

A woman reported to the Garfield Police Department that she picked up two people walking along Route 12 that “resembled the missing persons,” police said.

The woman drove the pair to the Hunterdon County Library in Flemington, which was being used as a warming center, about an hour southwest of Wayne.

— Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Daniel Hubbard at Daniel.Hubbard@patch.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Flood Plain January 19, 2014 at 10:10 PM
It seems highly suspect that the overpaid WPD detectives were not checking the Wayne home and GARAGE on a REGULAR basis since the couple were reported missing. Don't they teach search techniques of the homes and GARAGES of missing or suspects in "detective school" anymore?
Donna Kratzer January 19, 2014 at 11:12 PM
This is soo sad. I feel terrible for their families. I am sending prayers! However, i agree with the above comment. :-(
mahlhead January 20, 2014 at 07:49 AM
I too feel sorry for the families, and I do agree with both above. I am by far not a detective, but when you are investigating a disappearance, you search the property. How do you not search a garage on property? And by far a real weird story. Wayne is becoming a mess.
bluediddy761 January 20, 2014 at 08:54 AM
Cops dropped the ball on this one. Just as with a missing child the first thing you do is get a consent to search form signed and you check the home AND garage first. It was obviously a murder/ suicide or accidental death. If it was accidental I see no reason why the police would not just say so.
Drglass January 20, 2014 at 09:09 AM
This whole thing is sad but for those asking about the police checking...there is a part of the story that says that the girls cell phone was used intermittently during the 3 weeks they were missing. Maybe they didn't start out in the garage but recently returned there
Jo Anne Hall January 20, 2014 at 09:13 AM
It doesnt say that their bodies were there the whole time so why are you so quick to bash the detectives and cops! Highly unlikely that they never checked!! Cell phones in use over last few week!! Foul play!!!
Nora Kay January 20, 2014 at 09:52 AM
A beautiful young girl. My daughter went to school with her and she was a regular visitor at my home. RIP Melissa. My prayers are with you and your family.
ALD26 January 20, 2014 at 10:31 AM
What proof does anyone have that the cops dropped the ball? For all we know this wasn't the first time they checked the house. It hasn't even come out as to whether or not they were in the garage some the reported disappearance. My concern is for these families at such a tragic time.
eyes wide shut January 20, 2014 at 11:07 AM
@bluediddy761:"it was obvious a murder/suicide OR accidental death"...ya think? whats left to condisder?? Geez BTW the police are NOT at liberty to say UNTIL the investigation is COMPLETE..Would have thought YOU'D know this....
Teddys Mama January 20, 2014 at 11:41 AM
Sounds like CO poisoning. Wonder if they tried to get out of the cold by sitting in heated car while the garage door was closed. Scary nonetheless. Prayers go out to the families.
mahlhead January 20, 2014 at 12:37 PM
absolutely right, I don't know if this garage was checked. I spoke too soon.
Pad January 20, 2014 at 01:27 PM
What a shame. But I guess after the autopsy is done they will know the length of time in the garage and cause of death. Was the car running when found, ignition on and car out of gas. These are some things that will tell if it was CO poisoning. Accidental death or suicide is yet to be determined here. The families must be devastated. If it is found to be that they were in the garage since they were reported missing then this would indicate a foul up in the initial search. Wasn't it reported that it was his car in her mother's garage on Lancaster Court? They seemed to be so much in love. Maybe they were just having private time in the garage with the motor running, closed the garage door and succumbed to CO poisoning. These things sometimes happens when people are unaware of the effects of CO poisoning and made the mistake of closing the door.
Alice January 20, 2014 at 02:11 PM
Wow! so sad what happened but don't jump on the cops. I happen to know first hand they do good work!! I am sure when the whole story comes out people will understand more and hugs to the poor family that has to deal with the death of a loved one .
Michael Zawadzki January 20, 2014 at 05:15 PM
I would not be surprised for the lid to be blown off this soon enough. My heart goes out to the families who must be in utter shock and disbelief, but something isn't adding up at all.
Leandra Pena January 21, 2014 at 08:25 AM
Family and friends are asking for help in Melissa final departure arrangements... I went to St Gerard and to MHCA with Melissa... such a wonderful young lady who's life was taken too short... Please help... http://www.gofundme.com/6crf7o
Scondo January 21, 2014 at 10:58 AM
Read the account in the paper, neighbor said she saw them at the garage having trouble opening it, backed car in and then closed the door. Sounds like they got trapped inside unable to open and sounds like they tried to call on phone and then used car to stay warm and CO2 or hypothermia got them. Putting aside the devastating sadness to the story and focusing on the police department. The Chief should have a record of every time the detectives or officers went into that garage. If finding none, then he should reassign all offices who worked on this matter to the traffic division. An independent investigation of police procedure employed in this case should be started immediately. This case merits full explanation and it should be done independently.
Kim Graves January 21, 2014 at 11:08 AM
first off they disappeared 3 days before they were due at the bed and breakfast..i don't know why people keep saying they disappeared on their way. PA is merely an hour 1/2 away from their home so why people ASSume they left 3 days early to get there is beyond me...and as for the garages they are in a totally separate area than the apts.
Scondo January 21, 2014 at 11:25 AM
The car was empty and the battery was dead, as per the newspaper this am.
Scondo January 21, 2014 at 11:27 AM
The paper carries more details.
Scondo January 21, 2014 at 11:33 AM
I for one would like to hear how many times the police searched this garage in the time they were reported missing .
Pad January 21, 2014 at 01:01 PM
I believe this will turn out to be an accidental death situation due to carbon monoxide poisoning. They probably were having some private time and was running the car for heat. CO poisoning can happen very quickly. As for being locked in the garage? He should have been able to kick those door panels right out for its a wooden door and most all garage doors also have an emergency release also. What a shame two beautiful young adults in the prime of their life. Yes I believe the garage should have been searched but by the time they were reported missing unfortunately they may have already succumbed to CO poisoning. The cars gas tank was run dry and the battery was dead. That car was idling for a long time. It wouldn't have been to hard to force the garage door open at any time.
John Davies January 22, 2014 at 02:43 PM
I would love to have scondo and floodplain head up the next difficult case that goes to Wayne PD. Maybe they could be assisted by stew resmer and the rest of the experts who shoot from the lip with regularity in this forum. Is anyone familiar with the area in question here? You cannot get an accurate picture from the news stories but these are apartments, not all of which have a garage (they are scarce and costly) and the garages are separate units, not attached to the living space. It is not as though you would walk through a door in the kitchen and enter the garage. By the time the disappearance was reported to the police, three days had elapsed. Even if anyone had mentioned a garage to the first responding officer, why would it fall to him to check it? Shouldn't that have occurred to the family? Should he also have checked the rest of the house and looked in the closets and under the beds? I know if I was that officer taking a report in an apartment, I probably would not have though of asking the mother if she he had a garage and whether she checked it. It obviously did not occur to her to check either, or everyone would have known where the couple was much sooner. And after waiting three days to report the girl missing, it would not have made any difference when the discovery was made because it was already too late. How I despise the miscreants who spit their poison in this forum!
Alice January 22, 2014 at 02:51 PM
Yes john u r correct...also I wonder why someone would rent a garage and not park their car in it during snow and cold temps??? My heart goes out to the family but just wondering why you pay for a garage and not use it ??? Al In all it is such a sad turnout...guess we all just look for unanswered ?? Hoping this never happened to two young people
stewart resmer January 22, 2014 at 05:38 PM
Mr Davies perhaps you may want to excercise a modicum of decency and restraint in your vitriol and intemporate remarks in light of the fact that these two young people have not even been buried as yet and that there are members of our community and elsewhere who are grieving because of the tradgedy that has occured. Have you no sense of courtesy and respect?
Kelly Kocsis-Hudson January 22, 2014 at 06:21 PM
I would just like to say that this is so sad and prayers to the family but I would also like to say that none of this makes sense its not like these guys needed alone time because apparently they were suppose to go to a bed and breakfast and for what ever reason the girl left her house without a wallet or a jacket and it was cold out. Also did the person in Hunterdon county really drop this couple off at the Library and why wouldn't they call home to let people know they were ok. Something just is not adding up and I hope the parents get the answers they need. Maybe they will and maybe they wont it is just all so sad. I cannot imagine how these parents must feel.
Pad January 23, 2014 at 02:48 PM
I believe this will turn out to be a horrible accidental death by CO poisoning. People feel sick in their homes for weeks with flu like symptoms and don't realize they are being poisoned by CO. In a garage with a car motor running and the door closed the effects would be multiplied many times and it wouldn't take long to become delirious or even become unconscious. This is why it is so important to have CO detectors in home and maybe one in the garage wouldn't be a bad idea. A lot of young people have no idea even what CO poisoning is. May God cradle them in his loving arms and may they RIP together as they lived life together.
Bill January 25, 2014 at 08:37 AM
John Davies, I remember you from Montclair. How you be?
Dee Mauriello January 25, 2014 at 10:49 PM
Very sad, my prayers go to the families.
Scondo January 27, 2014 at 11:33 AM
There is an effort raise funds for the funeral, maybe as a town we can raise enough to help. A couple of dollars would help.

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