By Jeremy Walsh
Reyna Isabel De Los Santos, who would have been 43 this year, was reported missing after a June 19 fight with her husband, Edwin Fuentes, who is now facing charges for abusing Reyna's 18-year-old autistic son. A suitcase full of bones found in Forest Park March 4 was positively identified as her remains, police said.”We are dealing with a racist and double-standard system,” said community activist Enrique Lugo at a news conference Friday at the office of Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst). “When a white woman goes missing, they let the dogs out, they call in the helicopters, but from day one, they said [Reyna] went off with someone else.”Lugo and City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) blasted police for investigating the case as a voluntary missing person situation based on statements from Fuentes.”The police kept saying she left, and we said, 'No way,' ” Lugo said. “They based the investigation on what her husband – now an alleged suspect – said,” he said.Monserrate said police in the 102nd Precinct had questioned Fuentes about his wife's murder.Police defended their handling of the case.”Contrary to those groundless assertions, detectives seriously investigated the reported disappearance … from the outset,” said Paul Browne, the NYPD's deputy commissioner of public information.Detectives checked shelters for the homeless and battered women, and interviewed two independent witnesses who said they saw De Los Santos several weeks after her disappearance, Browne said.Fuentes has not been charged with the murder of his wife. But he is in police custody after being arrested last week on charges of assault and endangering an incompetent person, the Queens district attorney's office said. According to a criminal complaint filed by the DA, Fuentes hit his autistic 18-year-old stepson over the head with a broom handle on March 10. Fuentes was arraigned March 14 and his next court date is March 28. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.De Los Santos' family said she had a troubled marriage with Fuentes and the couple fought frequently.The family found out about the bones when the Daily News published a small article saying the remains might belong to a “missing mother,” Lugo said. He said it was only after a Monserrate held a news conference March 11 at City Hall that the NYPD assigned a Spanish-speaking detective to De Los Santos' case.Police did not deny Lugo's claim, but Browne said it did not affect the investigation.”Language was not an issue,” he said.Reyna's family does not want Reyna's two children to remain with Fuentes' family. In August, Marisol and Reyna's cousin, Milagros Panteleon, filed a petition to gain custody of the children. The case was still pending when De Los Santos' remains were identified.Now Ariel is 18, and the city's Adult Protective Services has placed him in the care of De Los Santos' family, Monserrate's office said. The family is redoubling its efforts to get the city Administration for Children's Services to remove De Los Santos' 9-year-old daughter, Tais Fuentes, from her father's care.They filed a petition in family court Monday morning, Monserrate said.The nonprofit New York Families for Autistic Children has set up a special fund to assist the victim's relatives with autistic care and funeral expenses. Those wishing to donate can call Nicole Flores at 718-641-3441 x. 104.Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.