San Francisco: One of the most well known cities in California. It boasts over 800,000 residents and is known for tourist attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, both of which have been featured quite a bit on this channel.
Today’s unsolved case takes place in San Francisco and involves a young mother and son who went missing there almost twenty years ago. But even today, the case of Evelyn and Alex Hernandez leaves more questions than answers.
Evelyn Hernandez was born on February 23, 1978 in El Salvador. Most of her family still lives there, but at some point in her childhood, her mother moved to San Francisco, and Evelyn joined her there at the age of 14. She attended the city’s McAteer High School — but in early 1996, a 17-year-old Evelyn found herself pregnant. On November 6, 1996, she gave birth to her son Alexis Geraldo Hernandez, who went by Alex. Alex’s father was in the Navy when he was born, and wasn’t involved in his son’s life, so Evelyn raised him as a single parent.
According to Evelyn’s family and friends, she was a fantastic mother, responsible and doting on Alex, as well as being highly involved in his education. She eventually got a job as a nurse and settled in San Fransisco with her son.
By late April of 2002, 24-year-old Evelyn found herself pregnant again. The father of this child was her then-boyfriend, 36-year-old Herman Aguilera. Aguilera worked two jobs at the time, one at a limo company and another as a mechanic at the San Francisco International Airport. But when they first started dating, Aguilera kept some pretty important information from Evelyn — he was already married.
Evelyn didn’t discover this until after she found out she was pregnant, though it’s not clear exactly when. According to Evelyn’s friends, Aguilera didn’t want to keep the baby — but Evelyn wanted this child and was excited about becoming a parent again. She planned on naming her new baby boy Fernando. While she was reportedly considering taking legal action to ensure she got child support, Aguilera did at least take some actions to help out the Hernandezes. On April 30, 2002, he bought a bed for 5-year-old Alex and later accompanied Evelyn to a routine doctor’s appointment.
The next day — May 1 — Evelyn was seen taking Alex to school and, later, at an ATM. Around 9:00 that night, she talked on the phone to one of her sisters about her upcoming baby shower. That was the last time anyone heard from her — and Alex didn’t show up to school the next day.
(Another source said Evelyn talked to her sister on the night of April 30.)
Evelyn’s due date was May 7, but there was still no sign of her or Alex. Herman Aguilera reported them missing that day.
At first, police didn’t suspect foul play. They thought Evelyn had simply taken off to be by herself as she prepared to give birth. Her mom, who she’d come to the U.S. to be closer to, had already moved back to El Salvador by this point. So investigators wondered if she’d simply gone back to her native country to be closer to her family.
But, as they would soon discover, there were several problems with this theory. For starters, Evelyn likely would have had to take a plane back to El Salvador — something a woman just days away from giving birth was unlikely to do. She and Alex had also left pretty much all of their things behind — including their passports and an overnight bag Evelyn had already packed in preparation for giving birth.
Not long after the two went missing, Evelyn’s wallet was found in a parking lot in another part of the city. The parking lot was just a few blocks from a gas station that was regularly used by the limo company that Herman Aguilera worked at. The wallet had some cash in it, as well as two checks made out to Evelyn. A nearby canal was searched after the wallet’s discovery, but nothing else of interest was found. About a month after the disappearances, the case was taken over by the homicide unit.
Investigators were able to track down Alex’s father, who lived in Puerto Rico at the time. He was questioned, but not considered a suspect.
Herman Aguilera was also interviewed by police and was initially cooperative, but later stopped talking to investigators. He claimed he was at home with his wife the night Evelyn went missing, and his wife said the same thing. She also claimed she knew about his affair with Evelyn, but didn’t realize she was pregnant until she was told by police. Aguilera has never been officially named a suspect, but he’s never been ruled out either.
On July 24, 2002, a citizen walking near the Bay Bridge made a gruesome discovery: A human torso and a pair of legs. The torso was clad in a maternity blouse. In September 2002, it was confirmed via DNA that these partial remains were those of Evelyn Hernandez.
Neither Alex Hernandez or baby Fernando have ever been found. When Evelyn’s body was identified, investigators already assumed Alex was dead. I haven’t seen anything definitive about what they believe happened to baby Fernando, but from everything I’ve read in my research, it seems like they think he’s dead as well.
So what on earth happened here? Who killed Evelyn, and where are her sons? There are only two major theories, so let’s go over them.
The first theory is that Herman Aguilera was involved. This is, as you might expect, the most prominent and believed theory among online speculators. Some of them have suggested Aguilera’s wife was also involved; even if she didn’t know Evelyn was pregnant, she may have wanted to get rid of the so-called “other woman.” Alex, unfortunately, may have witnessed his mom’s murder and been killed himself as a result.
But what about baby Fernando? It’s likely that whoever killed Evelyn also killed her unborn child in the process. But a least one online sleuth wondered if Aguilera — if he was the killer — had somehow managed to spare Fernando, wanting to keep his own child. But if that’s the case, where is he now? There’s also been speculation of coffin birth, which occurs when a pregnant woman dies and her body expels the unborn baby out of her body. If this did happen and Evelyn’s body was already in the water at that point, this might explain why baby Fernando’s remains haven’t been found.
The next theory is that this case is connected to another, more well-known case that took place around the same time, a case you’ve almost certainly heard of. Laci Peterson was 27 years old and eight months pregnant when she was last seen in her hometown of Modesto, California on Christmas Eve of 2002. In early April of 2003, the bodies of Laci and her unborn son, Connor, were found near the Berkeley Marina in the San Francisco Bay.
In 2004, Laci’s husband, Scott Peterson, was convicted of murdering his wife and unborn son. He was initially sentenced to death, but that sentence was later overturned. He’s set to be re-sentenced to life in prison in December 2021, and it’s possible he will later be granted a retrial.
There are quite a few similarities between these two cases. Both involved young, pregnant women who went missing just a few months apart from cities about 90 miles away from each other. Laci’s autopsy report showed her head and parts of her limbs were missing, and Evelyn’s arms and head were missing as well — though it’s not clear if that was done by her killer or due to decomposition from her body being in the water.
In June 2003, just a couple of months after Scott Peterson was arrested, his defense team requested access to records about Evelyn and Alex’s case. They noticed the similarities in the two cases and thought the files might have information that would exonerate Peterson. This request was denied by San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera, who said if the information in the files went public it might “result in the perpetrator of the crime avoiding detection.”
There are some people who believe Scott Peterson is innocent in his wife and unborn son’s murder and that whoever really killed Laci also killed Evelyn. There’s also been speculation that Peterson killed his wife as well as Evelyn and several other women. The theories involving the Petersons are a bit sensational, most of them seemingly perpetuated by tabloids, and online speculators seem to be pretty skeptical of them. As early as 2007, investigators had already stated they didn’t think the cases were connected. But I did want to include the theory here because it comes up all the time when people discuss Evelyn and Alex’s case.
Alex Hernandez was five years old when he was last seen in San Francisco, California on May 1, 2002. He’s a hispanic male who was 4 feet tall and 45 pounds at the time of his disappearance, with brown hair and eyes. He would be 24 years old if alive today.
Like I said in the title, this case is a bit weird in the sense that I wasn’t quite sure how to classify it. We have two missing people here — technically three, if you count baby Fernando — and only one of them has been found. So it’s part missing persons case, part unsolved murder. Either way, it’s obviously incredibly sad, and I hope it gets solved someday.
If you have any information about the case of Evelyn and Alex Hernandez, you can contact the San Francisco Police Department’s Cold Case Unit (415) 553-1450. There is a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.