UPDATE: Salvador Garcia Pleaded For Return Of Karen & Then Fled When Her Body Was Found
Suspect pleads on the local news for the mother of his child to come home, then flees. The search is on for 22-year-old Salvador Garcia.
UPDATE - In August 2019, the US Marshals confirm suspect Salvador Garcia is in custody. Garcia was put into handcuffs after being captured in Mexico. The arrest was due in part to the efforts of local authorities and an In Pursuit tipster who helped to keep the lead hot.
Authorities say Garcia fled California after allegedly killing his child's mother, Karen Garcia. “In Pursuit with John Walsh” cameras were on the ground to capture his extradition and arrival back into the United States to face the charges involved with the murder.
WILLIAMS, CA — As a young mother growing up in Williams, California, Karen Garcia was popular and connected to her community. She was a well-known cheerleader in high school, loved by her friends, and a hard worker at a local restaurant. Although Karen blossomed around others, inside her own home, things were a little difficult. In Pursuit interviewed Karen’s sister Ana Singh, who revealed, “When my mom and dad got divorced, I had to be the one who took care of the little ones, I have my younger sisters Karen, Jessica, and my baby sister — she’s 12 years old. Karen was nine years younger than me.”
Ana remembers in high school when Karen met a new boyfriend, Salvador Garcia. He was a football player, but he wasn't someone who would stand out in a crowd. Ana says he was quiet and reserved. Karen and Salvador didn’t just have a last name, school, and football in common, but both also worked at Granzella’s restaurant, a local haunt for people in Williams. Karen’s friend Linda Quintero tells In Pursuit, “Karen started off the same way just like me, hostess then server. Then Sal, he worked as a busser and then moved into a maintenance man. And her mom would wash dishes in the back.”
KAREN DELIVERS A BABY GIRL
Not long into their budding relationship, Karen became pregnant. At age 19, with support from Sal, she gave birth to their daughter. Karen and Sal decided to move in together into their own apartment and begin raising their family. It was a lot of new changes for Karen, but she seemed to adapt well, and many described her as a great mom.
Linda remembers the time well. “She moved into my apartment complex. I lived in the top apartment. She lived in the downstairs. It was literally like sharing a whole home together,” she said. “So we got closer, and my husband, Johnny, and Sal struck up a friendship.”
Having Karen such close proximity to her friend was beneficial because it gave Linda the opportunity to see what the couple’s relationship was really like, but she didn't always like what she saw.“One minute, they could be in each other’s arms, really good embrace, loving each other, and then the next minute, it goes from being sarcastic to being mean, and then from being mean to completely ignoring each other,” Linda said. She said they could go days without speaking to one another.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
Although Linda had a small glimpse into Karen’s personal life, other friends said Karen wasn’t willing to share details about her relationship at all. One night after a work Christmas party, Linda remembers when things boiled over in front of them for the first time. It all traced back to Sal’s jealously. “He started yelling at her in Spanish saying like, ‘Stop Karen, you are asking for it. I told you that.’ And he was slapping her open-handed. And I kept trying to tell him, you know ‘stop, stop,’” she revealed. “My husband, Johnny, pulled him off. And I just kept telling Karen, ‘Let’s just get you in the car and let’s go.’”
Gloria Romano remembers the first time her daughter told her Sal put his hands her, “She just hugged me, crying, and saying, ‘He hit me.’ I told her, ‘Karen, you have to call the police, either you call, or I will, because we can’t let this go.’”
KAREN EXITS THE RELATIONSHIP
Karen took her mother’s advice and contacted the Colusa Police department. A report was formally filed, and Garcia was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence. On January 4, 2018, the relationship was over for good. Karen left Garcia, and there was no looking back. After the break-up, Karen moved in with her mom and youngest sister.
It was only days after Karen and Garcia split, when her family says Garcia began stalking her. Police say Garcia broke into the family home and was found hiding in a closet. Karen discovered him, but didn’t call police. She didn’t think her life was in danger, and Garcia would likely leave her alone. But Karen had no idea what was in store for her.
Only three days after Karen returned home with her family, a terrible tragedy struck. On January 7, 2018, Karen’s middle sister, Jessica, was involved in a horrific accident. She was hit and killed in a head-on wreck with a wrong-way driver. She was only 19. The death devastated every single person who knew Jessica and the family.
To try and process what was happening and get a break from everyone. Karen went over to Linda’s apartment, in the same building where she used to live. She wanted to try and get her mind off what was happening at her mother's home and to put the devastation of losing her sister out of her mind, if only for a few hours. In attendance was Linda, her husband, and a friend of the husband's who was interested in Karen.
Linda remembers, “Salvador called us: ‘Do you know where Karen’s at? Her car’s at the apartment, but she’s not there.’ It got to the point where he told us like, ‘Fine, if you won’t tell me where she’s at, can you at least let her know that she needs to pick up the baby tomorrow at eight at the apartment because I work?’”
The next morning, Karen went back to the apartment to pick up her daughter. On her way in, she passed Linda’s husband.“My husband was downstairs checking the mail, and he said, ‘Hey, Sal’s in the apartment waiting for you. Are you gonna be okay?’ And she said, ‘Yeah. I’ll be fine,’” Linda adds.
KAREN MISSES VIGIL FOR SISTER
One hour later, Karen never emerged from Sal's apartment. Her car was parked outside, but she was nowhere to be found. A worried Linda texted Karen and got an odd response. The response from Karen’s phone asked Linda if she was supposed to work that day. Linda knew that was off, because Karen was always on time and knew exactly when she had to work.
Hours later, there was still no sign of Karen. What was even worse was that Karen’s sister Jessica’s vigil was that evening. Everyone who Karen knew she wouldn’t have missed honoring her sister for anything.
But 24 hours later, Karen wasn't on anyone’s radar. As for Sal Garcia, he was acting as if he was just as worried as her loved ones. Karen’s sister Ana wasn’t wasting any time. She contacted the police and filed a missing person’s report. Ana wanted to get the ball rolling to find her sister.
Forty-eight hours after Karen was last seen, her loved ones began searching for her. During the search, Garcia went on the local news and pleaded for answers about the disappearance of his daughter's mother. What was odd about his appearance, and noticed by many, was Garcia was talking about Karen in the past tense.
William Police Department Detective Chris Miller knew he had a lot of work to do in the case. Miller said he brought Garcia in for questioning, but he didn’t get far in the process. “We did see that there was a domestic-violence incident involving Karen and Sal from back in the end of December. So, we brought Sal in for an interview here at the police department in Williams on the 12thof January,” Miller said. “He ended the interview abruptly just after beginning, and did not want to provide any further statement to the investigators. That was suspicious to us, because just a couple of days before, he was pleading for her safe return.”
SEARCH WARRANT EXECUTED
Police knew something had happened to Karen and they were in the process of executing a search warrant at her former residence, the apartment she used to share with Sal. When investigators gained access, they found evidence of a murder.
“We got to a back bedroom and we found a substantial amount of blood. Someone losing that much blood would most likely have been deceased from the injuries. Also, there was evidence that showed someone had appeared to have been dragged from within the apartment out to the back,” Miller said.
At this point it was clear to authorities that Karen was likely a homicide victim.
Only five days after Karen vanished, although Garcia wasn't cooperating with police, he organized a car-tagging flyer event. He was out plastering Karen's name all over vehicles in the Williams area. Karen’s good friend Angela Castanon was helping in an area 20 miles away the very next day, when she found the biggest clue — one cracking the case wide open.
KAREN'S CAR SPOTTED
Angela said she spotted Karen’s car in the Woodland parking lot. “I had the flyer in my hand with the license plate. As I got closer, I started reading the license plate numbers. That’s how I knew for sure it was hers. My heart dropped. I went up to the car and her body was in there, and I pounded on the window. She didn’t move. She was in the passenger’s seat, looked like she was thrown in there. Her face was down towards the back.” Angela said she also noticed Karen’s cell phone in the vehicle with a bloody fingerprint.
Karen’s sister Ana, who now realizes her family lost two sisters in one week to two separate horrific events, said, “I was like, ‘No way, this cannot be happening again. I just lost a sister, I can’t be – I can’t be losing my other sister.”
Detective Miller confirms Karen died from multiple blunt-force injuries to her head. Gloria said this about her daughter: “She didn’t deserve to die like that, beaten to death, like if he had killed – an animal. She was a good girl, she didn’t deserve a death like the one that he brought on her.”
WARRANT ISSUED FOR GARCIA
Within one week, investigators knew exactly who had likely had a hand in her disappearance and death. On January 14, 2018, authorities issued a warrant for Garcia’s arrest. They went to pick him up, but found out Garcia skipped town only 24 hours before. Right now, the U.S Marshals are on the hunt to find Garcia.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Ryan Burrows tells In Pursuit, “Sal may have obtained a new identity, and he may be out trying to work cash jobs. Will he kill again? You know, the fear of going to prison, going to jail, the fear of that alone may have created a mindset of, ‘I’ve crossed that line already, so I’m going out big.’”
Karen leaves behind a loving family and a young child. “The baby is two years old. And sometimes when she’s sleeping, sometimes she just wakes up crying, yelling for Mommy. It is very devastating,” Ana says. “My sister Karen was buried young, and she didn’t deserve this. There are some days that I wake up and I just want to see her and give her a hug.” She adds Garcia will “definitely” pay for what he’s done to their family.
In October 2018, according to Fox 40, investigators discovered the van that Garcia likely fled in, in a small town near Tijuana, Mexico.
TRAITS & CHARACTERISTICS:
- Weight: 150 pounds
- Height: 5 feet 7 inches tall
- Sex: Male
- Race: Hispanic
- Hair: Black
- Eyes: Brown
- Date of birth: January 8, 1996
- AGE: 22
- Tattoos: Pocket watch on inside of right forearm, and daughter’s name “Avianna” directly under it
- Speaks Spanish and English, fluently
- Was wearing braces, but may have had them removed
- Could be in Mexico
- Could be working cash jobs
- May have obtained a new identity
If you have any idea where he could be hiding out, or have any other information about this case, please call our hotline (833-3-PURSUE) or submit a tip online.
For more on this case, watch the “Crocodile Tears” episode of In Pursuit With John Walsh on Wednesday, February 6 at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery! Or catch up on ID GO.