Woman found with zip tie around her neck, boyfriend charged with her death

SANFORD, FL- Joel Bauza, 50, has been apprehended and charged with first-degree murder in relation to the death of his girlfriend, Joysee Cartagena, 49. Bauza initially reported Cartagena’s death as a suicide after she was discovered lifeless in their shared home last month, a zip tie fastened around her neck, according to local law enforcement.

The Sanford Police Department received a distress call on July 17, around 2:10 p.m., reporting a deceased woman in a Sanford residence. Upon arrival, Sanford Fire and Rescue discovered Cartagena in her home, a large zip tie encircling her neck. Despite immediate life-saving attempts, Cartagena was declared dead at the scene.

On July 31, the police department began treating Cartagena’s death as suspicious, potentially a homicide. As per standard protocol in cases of unattended or suspicious deaths, the Lake County Medical Examiner was brought in to perform an autopsy. The post-mortem examination revealed that Cartagena had died from manual strangulation, and her death was officially ruled a homicide.

The investigation led authorities to conclude that Bauza, Cartagena’s live-in boyfriend, was responsible for her death. According to Chief Cecil Smith, Bauza attempted to steer the initial investigation toward a suicide ruling. However, the diligent work of the Lake County Medical Examiner’s Office and the Major Crimes Investigators revealed that Cartagena did not take her own life.

The police department’s statement also paid tribute to Cartagena, describing her as a “radiant woman” who had a positive influence on many in the community. The statement expressed sorrow over Bauza’s actions that led to her premature death and expressed hope for justice to be served.