The medical examiner said Maria Santiago's body gave up no secrets about her death: no sign of disease, no physical trauma on her 5-foot-4, 170-pound body, no sign of struggle, no evidence of drug or alcohol use.

Burlington County Medical Examiner Ian Hood testified Tuesday that he could only classify the death of Santiago, 38, as a homicide because of how she was found: wrapped in paint-stained blankets in the trunk of her 2014 Chevrolet sedan at a South Jersey motel.

But that was enough for a Philadelphia judge to hold Santiago's boyfriend, Jesus Garcia, 42, for trial on murder charges in the death last December.

According to Assistant District Attorney Bridget Kirn, Santiago's mother reported her missing on Dec. 7.

Kirn said Santiago's white Chevy was gone and the couple's immaculately kept Olney house, in the 100 block of East Wellens Avenue, had been trashed, top to bottom.

More significant, testified Philadelphia Homicide Detective Thorsten Lucke, were drag marks on the front porch - as if someone pulled a body through paint.

Santiago's car was equipped with a data communication system, which enabled police to pick up the signal and track the vehicle's movements.

Kirn said police followed the car into Burlington County, where it was found parked at the Quality Inn on Route 38 in Maple Shade.

Lucke narrated a compilation video from surveillance cameras at the hotel. The video shows Santiago's Chevy being parked in the motel lot about 2:30 p.m. Dec. 7. The driver, identified as Garcia, leaves the car, walks into the motel, and registers.

Lucke testified that the video shows no one touched the Chevy from the time Garcia left it until about 9 p.m., when Maple Shade police arrived. They found Santiago's body in the trunk.

Garcia was taken into custody at the motel. Lucke said that white paint was found on Santiago, the blankets in which she was wrapped, and Garcia's clothing.

Kirn said Garcia, 42, gave several statements to police, contending Santiago left the Olney house about 4 p.m. Dec. 6, and never returned.

Neighbors, however, reported sounds of a loud argument coming from the house late Saturday into early Sunday, according to Kirn.

Defense lawyer Wendy Ramos, representing Garcia with Gregg Blender, questioned the validity of Garcia's statements, noting that he was so inebriated, he vomited during the interviews.

Ramos also argued that Garcia should not be tried on any charge more serious than third-degree murder. Ramos said the autopsy showed no injuries proving a specific intent to kill.

Kirn, however, argued that body-size holes in the drywall of Santiago's house suggested a struggle. She said neighbors reported that Garcia's voice was loud but Santiago's sounded muffled.

Municipal Court Judge Patrick F. Dugan ordered Garcia to stand trial on a general charge of murder and a count of abuse of corpse.

215-854-2985 @joeslobo