Hunt broadens for suspect in brutal Colusa murder

John Walsh to feature Karen Garcia case on new hit show

It’s been a just over a year since 21-year-old Karen Garcia was brutally murdered, and people want her killer brought to justice.   

That is why John Walsh, of “America’s Most Wanted” fame, is joining the hunt for Salvador Vaca Garcia, Jr., who is suspected of killing Karen on Jan. 8, 2018, inside the Colusa apartment where the couple had been raising their 2-year-old daughter prior to a bitter breakup that followed his arrest on domestic violence charges a few weeks earlier. 

“Sal needs to be found,” said Tootie Hackett, who worked with the couple at Granzella’s, in Williams. “This has gone on for too long. It has been such a hard year for Karen’s family. It’s been a hard year for all of us.” 

Walsh will broadcast “Crocodile Tears,” tonight on the Investigation Discovery (ID) Network during his new show “In Pursuit with John Walsh.” 

The episode, which airs at 7 PM Pacific Time, is named for the tearful interviews Garcia Jr. gave to the media in the days following Karen’s mysterious disappearance on Jan. 8, 2018, the day after her sister and her four friends were killed by a wrong-way drunk driver on Interstate-5, near Woodland. 

Garcia Jr. has been on the run since Jan. 13, 2018, after investigators linked blood evidence found in his car and apartment to Karen’s death from blunt force trauma to the head. Her body was discovered inside her blue Honda in a Woodland parking lot on Jan. 14, the day after Garcia Jr. was last spotted writing “Bring Karen Home” at a car-tagging event in Williams. A van, later reported stolen by a family member, was found months later near Tijuana, and is believed to be the vehicle Garcia used to make his escape. 

Colusa Police Chief Josh Fitch said the U.S. Marshals Service is still actively searching for Garcia Jr. in both Mexico and the U.S., and hopes Karen’s televised story leads to Garcia Jr.’s apprehension. 

“Any publicity is good publicity,” Fitch said. “It certainly can’t hurt.” 

The Colusa Police Department and the US Marshals continue to offer a $10,000 reward for information leading to Garcia Jr.’s arrest and conviction, Fitch said. 

Walsh, whose 25-year run on “America’s Most Wanted,” helped nab 1,244 criminals and 61 abducted kids, before going on to host a similar show “The Hunt.” 

Walsh rose to fame bringing criminals to justice following the murder of his 6-year-old son, Adam, who was abducted from a Sears store in Florida in 1981. His son Callahan Walsh is the show’s co-host.  

Hackett said she saw the preview of tonight’s episode of “In Pursuit” during the last week’s show, and that it had a chilling effect.  

The show features interviews with Karen’s sister, Ana Singh, and a Granzella’s co-worker, who help shed light on events that led up to Karen’s murder. 

While Karen’s friends and family push to keep Karen’s memory alive, life for her family hasn’t been easy. 

Karen’s mom, Gloria, who has custody of her now 3-year-old granddaughter, remains in hiding in another state, and travels to Colusa County about every four months to allow court-ordered visitation to Garcia Jr.’s mother, which takes place under tight security.  

Hackett said Karen’s mother “had to learn all over again how to be a mommy,” but she reports the child is doing well. 

While tonight’s “Crocodile Tears” is somewhat like living the tragic events all over again, Hackett said she hopes Walsh’s show not only brings justice for Karen through Garcia Jr.’s arrest, but that it helps raise awareness of domestic violence, and the dangers women face while trying to end an abusive relationship. 

Hackett helped found Karen’s House, a local non-profit organization dedicated to providing a comprehensive domestic violence program in Colusa County.

The group hopes to eventually open a domestic violence shelter in Karen’s name in Williams, which will be the first shelter of its kind in this area.  

The group is now partnering with the Colusa County Continuum of Care and other agencies, and will continue to raise money through their rib cook-off during Williams Pioneer Day, the annual golf tournament in Arbuckle, and by participating in community events. 

“We’ve been involved in every parade and just about every event,” Hackett said. “We are going to keep Karen’s name out there.” 

In the past year, Karen’s House has helped eight victims secure restraining orders against their abusers, and has provided clothing, referrals and other services to victims of abuse, Hackett said. 

Karen’s House now has an office at 977 E St., in Williams, and expects to soon have a website up and running. 

Meanwhile, victims of domestic violence in need of help can contact the Karen’s House hotline at (530)-517-7507.