Reyna Hernandez (right) with her mother. Photo Courtesy of Ivonne Carillo-Hernandez

Reyna Hernandez (right) with her mother. Photo Courtesy of Ivonne Carillo-Hernandez

Friends of Renton’s Reyna Hernandez detail her cheerful character

Friends in Renton considered her family and saw some warning signs of abuse prior to her murder.

Friends and family remembered Renton resident Reyna Hernandez as a positive person who had a positive relationship with her spouse, but they recall some warning signs the week before her disappearance on Feb. 28, 2024.

The deceased, Reyna Hernandez, was born in Monterrey, Mexico, a year after her sister Ivonne Carillo-Hernandez. Ivonne said she and Reyna were close when she was growing up. She said Reyna was an energetic, positive kid. Although they grew up together, Ivonne said before Reyna’s death, she had only spoken to her through video calls because when she was 19, Reyna moved to the U.S., and she couldn’t get a visa to visit. Ivonne said Reyna went on to make her childhood dreams come true, going on to own the now-closed beauty salon, Reyna’s Hair Salon, in Renton.

But, before Reyna lived in Renton, she lived in California, where she met her longtime spouse, 61-year-old suspect Louie Hernandez, whom close friends of Reyna said everyone knew as Alex. Prior to her death, Alex lived with Reyna in Renton. Alex ultimately became the prime suspect in the killing of Reyna and has since been charged with first-degree murder.

According to a prior article from the Renton Reporter, Reyna’s body was found on March 8, 2024, at a Mexicali, Mexico, cemetery with a gunshot wound to the head. Shortly after her body was found, according to staff from the Attorney General Office of the Mexican State of Baja California, Alex was detained by Mexicali law enforcement and found with large amounts of cash and large amounts of fentanyl while driving Reyna’s vehicle.

At that time, none of his charges were related to Reyna’s murder, but after Renton detectives caught wind of his detainment, they linked him as the prime suspect for the homicide.

“Typically, in an investigation like this, we build our case, the prosecutor files charges, and then a warrant is issued for the suspect,” Meeghan Black, a Renton police department spokesperson, stated in an email to the Renton Reporter. “At that time, we would work with local and federal authorities to extradite the suspect to Washington state to stand trial.”

Detectives ruled this was a domestic violence case, which post-death, Reyna’s friends Lupita Hernandez (not blood-related) and Nancy Ossorio said they would never have expected until the week before Reyna’s initial disappearance.

“She had a purple eye and marks on her chest, and she even posted photos of the marks on Facebook. Then she called me via video after I saw what happened, and then I saw her in person,” Ossorio said. “You know, you can’t really get in between people’s relationships, but I cared for her, and I pleaded with her, but only she knows why she didn’t make a police report.”

Ossorio said she was surprised Alex hit her. She said she knew Reyna and Alex had been having problems, but they always had a good relationship. Ossorio said she and the couple spent a lot of time together, gathering as family on many occasions.

Ossorio said Reyna was like family to her, considering Reyna her mother. Ossorio moved to the U.S. from Guatemala when she was 19, and she met Reyna a few years later. Ossorio said she had no family in the U.S., so that is how Reyna became like family to her. At first, Ossorio said Reyna was her hairstylist, but they quickly became friends. She would go to her home and have meals with her three to four times a week.

Eventually, Ossorio said she had a son who is now 5 years old. Ossorio said she went through a lot with him, being that he had heart surgery at five weeks old and at 3 years old was diagnosed with autism. Ossorio said Reyna was by her side through every rough patch, and she always encouraged her to be strong. Ossorio said Reyna would always make people feel special, give people hope in life, and she would help a lot of women who would go through abuse.

“Reyna wasn’t just a stylist. I would always say she was like a heart doctor because people would show up for a haircut, but in reality, what people would come to fix were their emotions and heart,” Ossorio said. “You could show up sad or with any problem, and she would always have the right words to help you feel happy and find meaning in things.”

Ossorio said because her son is autistic, one of the things he has trouble with is haircuts — it should be noted not all people with autism experience the same things. Ossorio said Reyna would always try to find different ways to make her son comfortable. She recalled an instance where Reyna noticed that her son was a very visual kid, so she put a piece of plastic over the mirror so he couldn’t see what was happening. She said that worked, and Reyna always kept that plastic for her son.

“One of the last times I saw Reyna, my son gave her a gift. About a week before she disappeared, it was from God or something, but I arrived, and my son squeezed Reyna’s hands and asked her to cut his hair. She didn’t put up the plastic, and he was OK with it,” Ossorio said. “Reyna was really happy because it was the first time he got a haircut without needing to cover the mirror, and it was like an accomplishment for her, and Reyna was super happy for him. My son and I didn’t know that would be the last time she would cut his hair.”

Ossorio said she thinks her son understands that Reyna isn’t around anymore, but he can’t express it with words. She said he’s tried to cut his hair twice now. She said he usually tells her, “Mommy, barber,” when he wants a haircut. So, she took her son to Reyna’s salon so he could see it was closed. She said he kept pulling at the door, saying, “Reyna, open the door.” Ossorio said she hopes one day he will understand that Reyna went to heaven.

Another close friend of Reyna was Lupita Hernandez. Lupita Hernandez said she was more than a friend to her, she was like a sister. Lupita Hernandez said she met Reyna about 20 years ago when they were neighbors at the Riverbend Mobile Home Community in Renton. Lupita Hernandez described her as very cheerful, talkative, and always laughing. She said Reyna always tried to stay positive and was never sad.

“[Her death] affected me because we would always talk on the phone about how my day was going, how work was going, or she would ask me to go with her to buy supplies for her salon or if we could get together to eat,” Lupita Hernandez said. “We would talk every day, over the phone or text. It affected me not to hear her, to hear her laugh.”

Lupita Hernandez said Reyna was well known in Renton’s Latino community. She said that whether it was at a store, restaurant, or the mall, she always knew somebody.

Although another friend reported Reyna missing, Lupita Hernandez said the detectives spoke to her because she was the last person in contact. Lupita Hernandez said the last time they spoke, she thought Reyna’s behavior wasn’t like her usual self.

“She never said no. What I found weird was that I asked her if she wanted me to go to the store with her, and she said no. I told her I’d leave my car, or we can go in your car, and she said, ‘No, I have to fix some things with Alex, and we’ll talk later and run the errands.’ I said that’s fine,” Lupita Hernandez said. “That was the last time we spoke, but I found it weird that she said no because she never told me no, but this time she did.” She said the week before she disappeared, Reyna told her that Alex had hit her, and she couldn’t believe it, but Reyna told her she was serious. Reyna then told Lupita Hernandez she didn’t live with Alex anymore if she went looking for her where she used to live.

Lupita Hernandez said she had never seen them fight or argue, and she never mentioned any issues. Lupita Hernandez said she can’t forgive Alex for allegedly murdering Reyna because he had no right to take her life because only God has that right. Still, despite her inability to forgive Alex, she knows Reyna wouldn’t want her friends to hold anger toward him.

“She doesn’t want to see us angry. She wants to see us happy, and as long as I live near her grave, I’ll visit her and be there for her family if they need anything,” Lupita Hernandez said. “I told them that although I won’t physically have Reyna with me, she will always be next to me. She doesn’t want us to be angry or sad, she wants to see us be happy, because she was happy.”

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