A month of tragedy continued to build for one Colusa family Sunday afternoon when 21-year-old Karen Garcia’s body was found in her car and police declared her ex-boyfriend, Salvador Garcia Jr., the lone suspect in her killing.
Authorities found blood evidence when they raided the Williams apartment Salvador and Karen used to take care of their 2-year-old daughter, Avianna, according Chief Joshua Fitch of the Colusa Police Department. They found Karen, who had been missing since around noon on Jan. 8, in her blue Honda Accord in the parking lot of a Marshalls store in Woodland at around 3:45 p.m. on Sunday.
Karen Garcia’s sister Jessica, 19, was one of five people riding in a car shortly after midnight on Jan. 7 when their vehicle was struck by a woman driving the wrong way down Interstate 5. All six people involved in the accident were pronounced dead at the scene, and all members of Garcia’s car were 25 years old or younger.
Salvador Garcia Jr. wasn’t home when police found blood in the apartment he shared with Karen prior to their breakup, Fitch said. Police then seized Salvador’s car and found more blood inside. They’ve been looking for him since Sunday.
A Department of Justice lab is expected to return DNA test results on the blood samples by Tuesday, Fitch said. Woodland Police Department officers are compiling surveillance footage from various businesses surrounding the shopping center where Karen was found.
Fitch wouldn’t disclose the type of weapon used in the homicide, pending the outcome of an autopsy.
In a Jan. 11 interview with the Bee, Salvador said he had known Karen since the third grade and they'd been together nine years prior to ending their relationship this year. Fitch said Karen had recently started casually dating another man, which Salvador didn’t like.
“She had started seeing someone else, and of course he wasn’t happy about that,” Fitch said. “He wanted her back and that wasn’t happening.”
Salvador said the breakup was mutual and that they'd stayed friends for Avianna, and said Karen was "the sweetest person you'll ever meet." Avianna is currently living with Karen’s parents.
"She loves her family," he said. "She's one of the most upbeat people you'll ever meet."
He called Karen a great mother and said Avianna always came first for both of them.
"She's the center of our attention," he said.
Salvador’s mother and aunt were investigating Karen's last whereabouts on Thursday, looking in Roseville and Vacaville to no avail, he said.
"I've never had to go through anything like this, I don't know how to react to it," he said at the time. "Everyone's been telling me to stay strong for my daughter."
Linda Quintero, a neighbor and friend of the Garcias, said Karen had said she was shopping in Roseville in a text last Monday afternoon. When Quintero returned to her apartment that night, she realized Garcia had left her purse – including her driver’s license, cash and sole ATM card – in her bedroom.
The Williams Police Department had initially said foul play was not suspected in Karen’s disappearance. She had told friends that she wanted to get away from the chaos surrounding Jessica’s death, Fitch said.
“The first thought was that she had a lot to deal with and she needed some time, and then obviously that wasn’t the case,” Fitch said.
Anyone with information about Salvador Garcia Jr.’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Colusa Police Department at (530) 438-7777.