Missing Hazleton woman murdered

December 19, 2012

HAZLETON – A woman who was reported missing on Saturday was found murdered in her East Diamond Avenue home Tuesday morning, according to city police and the Luzerne County coroner.

Police said on Monday that Maria Brea, 32, was reported missing by her family on Saturday. Family members last spoke to her on Friday, the same day she failed to pick up her children from school, police said.

While searching for Brea on Tuesday morning, police found a body in her residence at 343 E. Diamond Ave. At that time, they could not positively identify the body as Brea's, but they called it a homicide investigation.

Luzerne County Coroner Bill Lisman said Dr. Gary Ross conducted an autopsy on the woman's body Tuesday afternoon and determined the cause of death to be asphyxiation due to strangulation and that the manner of death was homicide.

Hazleton Police Chief Frank DeAndrea said Brea's family positively identified her body Tuesday evening.

Police also said they are searching for Oscar Lozano Garcia, no age or description provided.

Brea recently ended her relationship with Garcia, police said.

Police said Brea's body was discovered when a search warrant was served at her East Diamond Avenue residence in connection to the missing-person investigation.

The Luzerne County District Attorney's Office, state police Forensic Services Unit and the FBI are assisting in the investigation.

Edward Lewis and Steve Mocarsky are Times Leader staff writers. Lewis can be reached at 970-7196. Mocarsky can be reached at 970-7311.