Hearing in Juan Carlos Hernandez case postponed again

Editors Note: Story was edited to show official charges of the defendants on Oct. 4 at 1:02 p.m.

The hearing for the two suspects accused in the death of an El Camino College Student was postponed again last Tuesday at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Justice Center in Los Angeles.

Ethan Kedar Astaphan, 27 and Sonita Heng, 20, were both charged in relation to the death of 21-year-old ECC student, Juan Carlos Hernandez, after his initial disappearance on Sept. 22, 2020, a news release by the District Attorney’s office read.

During what was supposed to be the preliminary hearing on Tuesday, Judge Jeffrey Cohen-Laurie postponed the hearing to Monday, Sept. 27, after it was revealed that Astaphan could not be in court because he was under quarantine from Covid-19.

The prosecutor, Habib Balian, said that Astaphan’s co-defendant, Heng, will be testifying as a cooperatingwitness for the prosecution during Astaphan’s preliminary hearing.

Astaphan, of San Gabriel, faces one count of murder and may serve the possible maximum sentence of 25 years to life in a state prison.

Heng, of Harbor City, faces a potential threeyear sentence at a state prison for accessory, Heng’s private attorney Mark Rafferty said.

Rafferty said that a third defendant in the case, Weijia Peng, is being held in custody in Turkey where he is attempting to fight his extradition to the United States.

Hernandez, an engineering student at ECC disappeared on Sept. 22, 2020. He was reported missing by his mother, Yajaira Hernandez, after failing to make it home from his night shift at the VIP Collective LA, a marijuana dispensary.

A joint effort by the LAPD’s RobberyHomicide Division, the San Bernardino’s Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team, the San Bernardino’s Sheriff’s Homicide and the FBI, led to the discovery of Hernandez’s remains on Nov. 15, 2020, in a shallow grave in the Mojave Desert.

According to court records, Astaphan continues to be held on a $10 million bail whereas Heng was released on her own recognizance in January. Astaphan pleaded not guilty and Heng was scheduled to have a sentencing/probation hearing on the 27 according to the LA Court’s case calendar.