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Estranged lover indicted for murder in killing of Hernando woman who called taxi company for help

Posted at 3:40 PM, Aug 02, 2019

SPRING HILL, Fla. — A local man was indicted for first-degree murder on Friday after the body of his estranged lover was found in a tractor trailer behind a Dollar Tree in Spring Hill in July.

Manuel Jesus Vega, 50, was arrested after Viviana Sanchez, 53, was found dead on July 14.

Sanchez called a taxi cab company that day around 2 p.m., requesting a taxi come to a home on Fieldpoint Way in Spring Hill. She told the company to call police if she didn't answer the door.

Rather than send a taxi, the company immediately called the sheriff's office.

According to the sheriffs office, Sanchez and Vega were involved in ongoing domestic violence issues since at least May. At that time, a judge in Pasco County issued a no contact order between the pair after Vega's arrest for domestic battery by strangulation on Sanchez.

Vega bonded out of jail and was due in court on July 29.

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The sheriff's office says it's unknown if the two were still residing together or if they were having regular contact.

Deputies responded to the home after the taxi company's call but found no one there. They issued a missing persons report at that time for Sanchez.

Later that day, around 8:45 p.m., a female with the taxi company called 911. She said Sanchez sent her a text earlier that day saying she was with Vega and in fear for her life, according to the sheriff's office.

The woman went on to tell deputies family members of Sanchez were able to trace her cellphone to the area of the Dollar Tree on County Line Road. The sheriff's office says the woman drove to that area and saw Vega's tractor-trailer parked behind the Dollar Tree.

Deputies responded to the area and made contact with Vega in the truck. Vega attempted to back up but was blocked by patrol vehicles. Deputies attempted to get inside but were unable to.

The sheriff's office says Vega called 911 and said he was inside the truck. He told deputies they should not try to get inside, the sheriff's office says.

Eventually, Vega came out of the truck and was arrested. Deputies went inside the cab and found Sanchez's body.

Deputies have not specified how Sanchez died.

The Executive Director of the Dawn Center in Hernando County, Shannon Sokolowski, said help is available 24 hours a day.

"We offer a range of supportive services, free of charge to survivors, including 24/7 crisis hotline, crisis counseling, emergency shelter," said Shannon Sokolowski, Executive Director of Dawn Center.

The Dawn Center is a certified domestic violence center and helps about 1,900 people every year.

Risk indicators for escalation and intimate partner homicide include:

  • Perpetrator has prior history of domestic violence
  • Perpetrator has prior non-domestic violence related criminal history
  • Perpetrator controls all/most of partner’s daily activities
  • Perpetrator exhibits extreme and/or violent jealousy toward partner
  • Perpetrator is stalking, making threats, destroying partner’s property
  • Perpetrator owns a firearm or can get one easily
  • Perpetrator abuses or is dependent on alcohol
  • Perpetrator avoided arrest for intimate partner violence
  • Perpetrator threatened to harm children
  • Perpetrator attempted to strangle the decedent
  • Perpetrator is unemployed
  • Perpetrator abuses illegal drugs or is drug dependent
  • Perpetrator has recently escalated the intimate partner violence
  • Perpetrator’s partner has expressed fear of re-assault/homicide
  • Perpetrator has attempted or threatened suicide
  • Perpetrator has threatened to kill partner
  • Perpetrator has used a weapon to threaten partner
  • Perpetrator has recently (up to one year) separated from partner
  • Perpetrator is living in a home with children who have a biological parent other than the perpetrator
  • Perpetrator has sexually assaulted their partner or forced sex in the past
  • Perpetrator has assaulted partner while she was pregnant