On December 27, Melissa Pereira, 25, and Jorge Rodriguez, 24, were preparing to leave her home in Wayne, New Jersey, for a New Year’s Eve getaway at a bed and breakfast in the Pocono Mountains.
Yesterday, their bodies were found in Rodriguez’s car, parked in a garage behind Pereira’s apartment complex. Here’s what we know about the couple and the mysterious tragedy that’s befallen them:
1. They Were Deeply in Love
The couple had been dating for over two years at the time of their deaths. Even a cursory glance at Pereira’s Twitter feed reveals a woman in love. Her last tweet, published on December 27:
Weekend with my everything :) #lovehim
— Melissa A. Pereira (@MelissaPereira8) December 28, 2013
Pereira tweeted frequently about the man she refereed to alternately as her “everything” and her “world”:
This past weekend was absolutely amazing! Best part was spending it ALL with my world. I love him insanely.
— Melissa A. Pereira (@MelissaPereira8) December 24, 2013
My baby is fast asleep right next to me though & I keep trying to find ways to wake him up
— Melissa A. Pereira (@MelissaPereira8) December 21, 2013
— Melissa A. Pereira (@MelissaPereira8) December 14, 2013
Jorge didn’t tweet much, but when he did, he often used to space to declare his own love:
I love my princess @MelissaPereira8
— Jorge Ezekiah (@JustJay89) October 15, 2013
2. A Woman Claims She Gave the Couple a Ride on January 7
The night they disappeared, the couple was spotted buying candles at a local KMart.
According to the Wayne Dispatch, a woman reported to the Garfield Police Department that she gave a ride to a couple matching Rodriguez and Peireira’s descriptions, who were walking in the cold along Route 12. The woman drove the couple to the Hunterdon County Liibrary in Flemington, New Jersey, which was being used as a warming center for the homeless. Flemington is roughly an hour southwest of Wayne, where the bodies were ultimately found. It’s unclear how long the couples bodies were there.
Since their disappearance, Pereira’s cellphone had been in use, but only for brief periods before being switched off.
3. They Were Both Photographers
Pereira summarizes herself on her LinkedIn page as a recent college graduate:
…aspiring to obtain a job within a dynamic organization where I can utilize my education, experience, demonstrated skills, strong work ethic & values to exert positive societal change through the Communications & Multi-Media industry.
Her most recent job was a year long stint with the Fox News Channel, working first on Your World with Neil Cavuto, and then The Cost of Freedom, performing a variety of social media, graphic creation, and management tasks for the programs. Before that, she worked as a photographer at Life Touch in Wayne, New Jersey. She was also an Assistant Director at the Boys and Girls club of Patterson and Passaic, where, her Executive Director Peter Thorton told NorthJersey.com, “She was admired by the staff and kids.”
According to the New York Daily News, Rodriguez worked in a photography studio, in Garfield, New Jersey.
4. The Cause of Death Remains a Mystery
A medical examiner has yet to conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death. After a weeks long search, that there bodies were found in Pereira’s garage struck Rodriguez’s cousin Angie Escobar as “kind of bizarre.”
She told NorthJersey.com, “It’s just so sad. He was so young. He had so much to give.”
5. Friends Are Shocked, Despairing
— Shalane (@shalaneyy) January 6, 2014
According to The Daily Mail , earlier this month, Garfield Police Captain Darren Sucorowski had said there was no reason to believe Rodriguez and Pereira were victims of a crime.
On January 15, one friend tweeted this message to Pereira:
@MelissaPereira8 i hope you're okay and that soon you read and respond to this :(
— peep game (@peepthegame) January 16, 2014
Since the news broke, friends of Pereira have taken to Twitter to express their grief:
— Heather (@WhatW0rdsMiss) January 20, 2014
— Mayra Alfaro (@Maitai0214) January 20, 2014
Heartbreaking. Rest in Paradise @MelissaPereira8.
— Amy Mancini (@amehmancini) January 20, 2014
— Daniel Rabadan (@danieloleinad) January 20, 2014