Local News

Slain woman, murder suspect had been friends since middle school

Posted April 7, 2021 6:36 p.m. EDT
Updated April 8, 2021 6:43 p.m. EDT

— The roommate and longtime friend of a woman found dead in her Raleigh apartment over the weekend was ordered held without bond Thursday in her death.

Erick Gael Hernandez-Mendez, 20, is charged with murder in the death of Christina Maria Matos.

Her body was found at the Signature 1505 complex on Hillsborough Street on Sunday after her parents said they hadn't heard from her and asked police to go into her apartment to check on her.

"There's no reason, no excuse to just take someone's life away, someone as beautiful as her," Matos' older brother, Abraham Matos, told WRAL News on Thursday. "There's no need, no need to take away someone's life like that, especially [someone] as close as her roommate, because that's how close that person was – someone trusted."

Christina Matos and Hernandez-Mendez had been friends since middle school and graduated from Clayton High School last year. They both shared the Raleigh apartment with a third Clayton High classmate.

Her father, Gerardo Matos, said he and his wife last heard from their daughter last Friday, which was her 20th birthday. Christina Matos had called and texted them and seemed to be in very good spirits, he said.

Later, the family became worried when they couldn't get in touch with her. On Saturday, her parents drove from Clayton to Raleigh to look for her.

They said Hernandez-Mendez came right away when they called him over the weekend and helped in the search for her. He also attended her vigil Tuesday night, they said.

Family members said they have asked Raleigh police to continue investigating the case because they believe others might have been involved in Christina Matos' death.

"He may have done it, but maybe someone else helped open the door to her apartment or have been an accomplice," Gerardo Matos said. "My daughter, my beautiful princess, she was in her room sleeping when this happened."

"What was the motive? What motivated this guy? I need to know what the motive was. What was the reason?" he added.

"Something tells me there's more," agreed Abraham Matos, who said Hernandez-Mendez's arrest brings him no relief.

"I want to make sure this is the 100 percent truth, that it actually happened, because I know that she deserves that more than anything," he said. "I don’t want anyone to be hiding the real truth or anything or just lying about something. I need to know if this is really what happened."

Christina Matos' friends got emotional after Hernandez-Mendez's brief court hearing on Thursday, insisting there is a second suspect.

"One hundred percent, we feel like somebody else is involved," Jimmy Ferrell said.

"There’s something else going on. We need those answers," Nijiah Williams said. "There’s something else."

"We here for justice for Christina," Gerardo Matos said after the hearing. "This is the beginning for a long, long long process."

Christina Matos had a difficult childhood but was turning her life around in Raleigh, her brother said. She was working several jobs and saving money for school, he said.

"She changed a lot of things that were hard for her to make it easier for her," he said. "She wanted to keep improving her life, wanted to keep moving forward, and I’ve always wanted to tell her how proud I was. I wish I could have said more."

A funeral for Christina Matos is planned for noon next Monday at Lea Funeral Home Chapel, 2500 Poole Road in Raleigh.

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