SALEM, MASS. (WHDH) - A Salem man has been arrested on a murder charge in connection with the disappearance of his 20-year-old girlfriend, Essex County District Attorney Paul F. Tucker and Salem Police Chief Lucas Miller announced Tuesday.

Pablo Vicente, 33, was pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday while authorities continue searching for her body. The pair were in a years-long relationship plagued with domestic violence, police said.

Prosecutors said Vicente confessed to choking Nayeli Nieves, a mother of a 18-month-old and a 3-year-old, to death inside her apartment at Salem Heights.

“We’re brought here today at this courthouse for another example of terrible domestic violence,” Tucker said. “A young mother taken by violence from a partner.”

Officials said Vicente put her body in a dumpster outside the apartment building which has since been emptied. The search is active and ongoing, police said.

Vicente was charged with domestic violence against Nieves in 2019 as well as similar charges in Lowell earlier this year.

Both children have been placed in the care of the Department of Children and Families.

“She was all about her kids, her family,” the victim’s brother Angel Nieves said.  “I miss her, we’re going to miss her.”

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