The last time friends and family saw the inseparable Melissa Pereira and Jorge Rodriguez was two days after Christmas. The young lovers said they were going out for a short drive near Pereira's home in Wayne, N.J. In a few days, they planned to check into a bed-and-breakfast for a romantic New Year's Eve.
But they weren't seen again after going out for a spin in 24-year-old Rodriguez's white Honda Prelude on Dec. 27. So it's come as a shock to family and friends not only that the couple would be found dead, but that they were discovered on Jan. 19 inside Rodriguez's car in the garage behind the apartment that the 25-year-old Pereira shared with her mother.
Police and one of Pereira's relatives are now at odds over why no one took a look in the garage until Sunday -- more than three weeks after the couple disappeared.
The chief of Wayne's police force told the Record newspaper that that's the day the lead detective learned about the rented parking space.
“Obviously, if someone had mentioned a garage, that would have been the first place [to look],” Wayne Police Chief John Reardon said to the Record.
But Pereira's uncle told the Record in an earlier report that the family mentioned the garage on Dec. 30, the day they called police to say the young couple was missing.
The uncle, Sham Bacchus, and Wayne Police Capt. James Clarke differed on what led a detective to check the garage. According to Bacchus, a wireless company had pinpointed Pereira's cellphone while Clarke said the detective questioned the family if they had use of the garage.
Autopsy results that should reveal how and when the young lovers perished are expected in a few weeks, Patch reported.
Pereira and Rodriguez had been in a relationship for a couple of years. Both were reportedly active members of their churches. Friends described them as inseparable.
Investigators ruled out foul play almost immediately, making it appear more and more likely that carbon monoxide poisoning caused their deaths.
The gas tank was completely empty and the battery was dead in Rodriguez's Honda Prelude. That suggests that the motor was running while they sat in the enclosed space, which can be lethal.