Suspect in Colusa homicide was recently charged with domestic violence against victim

The lone suspect in a homicide that deepened a grieving Williams family’s emotional wounds was recently accused of abusing his ex-girlfriend, the same woman found dead in a Woodland parking lot Sunday afternoon.

Salvador Garcia Jr., 22, was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence battery on Dec. 29, according to Colusa County Superior Court records, around the same time he and Karen Garcia ended their nine-year relationship. The two had reportedly gotten into an altercation on Dec. 6, when Karen claimed Salvador had slapped and thrown a plastic water bottle at her, Colusa police Chief Joshua Fitch said.

Karen, 21, went missing on Jan. 8, the day after her sister Jessica was killed along with five others after being struck by a vehicle driving the wrong way on Interstate 5. Karen was found dead in her car outside a Marshalls around 3:45 p.m. on Sunday.

Salvador and Karen had been living with their daughter Avianna, 2, in an apartment on the 400 block of Oak Street in Colusa prior to their breakup. They were determined to remain on good terms for their daughter’s sake, Salvador told The Bee in an interview last Thursday, and both used the apartment to take care of Avianna.

Neighbors reported hearing arguments from the on-again, off-again lovers before they broke up for good. Karen began casually seeing another man shortly thereafter, Fitch said, which didn’t sit well with Salvador.

“He was more into the relationship than she was toward the end, it seemed,” Fitch said. “A friend said they had plans to spend New Year’s Eve together, but ended up canceling because they split up before that.”

A search of the apartment turned up blood evidence, as did a search of Salvador’s car. As of late Tuesday afternoon, Fitch said, investigators were still awaiting DNA test results on the blood.

“We’ve just been chasing our tails today,” Fitch said.

Police have received numerous calls from people regarding possible sightings of Salvador Garcia, both locally and in the Sacramento area, Fitch said. Investigators have followed up on the leads, but so far, none of the individuals has proven to be Salvador Garcia.

In a police investigation, one of Salvador’s cousins described being called to pick the 22-year-old up at a Woodland parking lot sometime last week near where Karen’s body was found. The cousin made the 40-minute drive to Woodland before dropping Salvador back at his mother’s house in Williams, Fitch said.

Grant Garland, the vice president of Bar ALE feed company in Williams, said Salvador had been a production employee before he stopped showing up to work late last week. Salvador’s superiors had never taken serious disciplinary action against him, Garland said, and had been sympathetic as he helped organize searches for Karen immediately after she went missing.

“We were all in shock,” Garland said. “We had a hard time believing it could be him ... I mean, he was just a regular employee who worked his shift and had not been an issue for us. We’re very surprised and very sad.”

Salvador had called on Jan. 7 to take the next day, his 22nd birthday, off from work, Fitch said. Karen went missing after leaving the apartment on Jan. 8, and Salvador reportedly took another day off midway through the week as rescue efforts mounted.

Salvador, who still lists himself as Karen’s boyfriend on his Facebook page, remains on the run and wanted by law enforcement. His arraignment on the battery charge is scheduled for Jan. 30 at 12:30 p.m. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call the Colusa Police Department at 530-458-7777.

Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, @BenjyEgel. The Bee’s Ellen Garrison contributed.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee