Investigation Discovery’s ‘On the Case with Paula Zahn’ is a true-crime show hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist and CNN anchor, Paula Zahn. With each episode being 40 to 43 minutes long, the series follows Zahn as she travels across the country conducting interviews to delve deeper into tragic cases that have deeply affected people. One such gruesome tale featured in the fourth episode of Season 21 is Minerva Cantu’s murder. We carried out our own investigation into the facts of this case and compiled them to provide a better understanding.
How Did Minerva Cantu Die?
On November 27, 1990, Minerva Cantu was found dead by Fermin Cantu, her husband, in their house, 421 North F Street in Lake Worth, North Carolina. Minerva, 26 at the time of her death, was a mother to a daughter (born 1882-83) and a son (born 1889). She and her husband designed and made jewelry out of gold and precious stones at home. They sold these jewelry pieces in their spare time at a flea market and sometimes from their residence.
On the day of the murder, Minerva was at their residence with her infant son while her daughter was at school. Around mid-afternoon, assailants broke into their apartment and killed Minerva by strangulating her with a towel and duct tape wrapped around her face. At around 5:50 p.m., Fermin, along with Minerva’s niece, found her motionless on the floor of their living room with her wrists and ankles tied by electrical cords. The burglars had stolen several pieces of jewelry and the family car but had left the infant unharmed.
The car was located six blocks away from the Cantu residence the very next day. According to sources, Minerva had last spoken to her friends around 2 p.m. that day, stating to them the time she had considered picking her daughter up from school. However, she had never shown up. Fermin Cantu can still recall how he had helplessly removed the entire gag on his wife but to no avail. A murder investigation ensued, in which despite some early leads and sketches of the suspected burglar, the case remained unsolved for the lack of concrete evidence till the late 2000s.
In June 2009, Lake Worth Police Department was absorbed by the Palm Beach County Sheriff Office (PBSO). The PBSO Cold Case Unit hence inherited this 1990 case, which had failed to proceed further. The Unit reopened the case in June 2014, followed by the arrest of Jefer Negron in 2016 based on DNA evidence identified from the body of the victim.
Who Killed Minerva Cantu?
On June 7, 2019, Jefer Negron was convicted in the 1990 slaying of Minerva Cantu for suffocating her to death during a home burglary. The verdict came almost 29 years after the murder. Further analysis of the DNA evidence collected from the victim’s fingernails and a “distinctive orange shirt” she had been wearing at the time of her death led the sheriffs and the detectives to a man residing in North Carolina. This man was Jefer Negron. Negron had been associated with the murder early in the case, but there were no substantial pieces of evidence to strengthen the accusation.
In 2016, the investigating team finally laid hands upon the DNA evidence, which proved Negron’s direct involvement. Negron was living approximately 30 miles south of Raleigh, N.C., at the time of his arrest. He denied any involvement with the crime when the detectives came knocking at his door. He added that he had “never met the victim” or been to her home before. The evidence presented in front of the grand jury proved to be significantly conclusive. After the guilty verdict in 2019, Negron was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Read More: Where is Jefer Negron Now?