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Sunday, September 24, 2023

JERSEY CITY, N.J. - A woman whose remains were found inside a 55-gallon cement-filled drum in her apartment building might have been strangled by her husband, authorities said Sunday.

Randy "Amanda" Lehrer was last seen Aug. 17 leaving the diner where she worked, and investigators believe she was killed shortly afterward, Hudson County prosecutor Edward DeFazio told The Jersey Journal.

Her husband, Steven Acuna, was charged with her murder and remained jailed Sunday on $1 million bail. Lehrer's remains were found Friday in the basement of the apartment building where the couple and their infant daughter lived.

Investigators believe the killing was the result of domestic violence, DeFazio said. He told the newspaper that when investigators found the barrel, it was hidden by construction-type debris. He said Lehrer's remains were found "encased" in concrete, adding that there was no evidence that she was dismembered.

"It is almost like she was bent, folded," DeFazio said.

Acuna had said his 32-year-old wife went missing after they argued outside the diner where they both worked. After Lehrer disappeared, he relocated about 50 miles south to Toms River after Lehrer disappeared, and he was arrested there Friday.

He was scheduled to be arraigned Monday on the murder charges, and it wasn't immediately clear if Acuna had retained an attorney. DeFazio wouldn't say whether Acuna had told investigators anything about the case before he was arrested.

About 200 people gathered Saturday evening for a candlelight vigil held outside Lehrer's apartment building. Those attending placed numerous items outside the site, including flowers, memorial posters and balloons carrying messages such as "God Loves You."

The couple's 11-month-old daughter was placed in the care of her paternal grandfather shortly after Lehrer, a native of Montreal, disappeared, but DeFazio said Sunday that he wasn't sure if the man was still caring for the girl.

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