Garcia-Vaca appears for arraignment

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Salvador Garcia-Vaca sat in Colusa County Superior Court today in shackles, and a bulletproof vest as he listened to a police detective say Karen Garcia was likely bludgeoned to death in the bedroom of the Colusa apartment the couple once shared.

Detectives said her body was dragged through the laundry room, out a rear entrance, across a wooden deck, into the backyard, over a granite walkway, and into a vehicle before being driven to a shopping center in Woodland, where it was discovered on Jan. 14, 2018, just a few days after she was reported missing.

Garcia-Vaca, 23, who was arrested in Mexico last August after 18 months on the run, is accused of killing his childhood sweetheart – and mother of their 2-year-old daughter – just two days after Karen officially ended their nine-year relationship, and one day after her younger sister, Jessica, died in a head-on collision.

Karen’s family officially reported her missing on Jan. 12 after she failed to attend her sister’s vigil. Karne had just moved back into her mother’s home in Williams in late December following a domestic violence incident, for which Garcia-Vaca was charged.

Karen’s body was eventually found face down in a reclining position in the front seat of her blue Honda Accord in the Marshall’s parking lot. As if she was taking a nap, her hips were covered with a sweatshirt, and her cell phone was perched on one hip and plugged into a charger.

Investigator Sara Martin, of the Colusa County District Attorney’s Office, testified that Karen suffered a blow to the front of her head that fractured her skull, bruising near her left eye, an abrasion near her right eye, defensive wounds to her arms and hands, and a single fatal blow to the occipital lobe at the back of her head that fractured her skull and caused the brain to hemorrhage.

Martin also testified that DNA from blood taken from Karen’s body matched the DNA taken from the blood-soaked carpet in the bedroom, on a dresser, and in the laundry room. Karen’s DNA also matched a small amount of blood found in the molding of Garcia-Vaca’s car.

Following today’s preliminary hearing, Judge Jeffery A. Thompson ordered Garcia-Vaca to be arraigned on the new information on Feb. 19 on a single count of felony murder, for which Garcia-Vaca previously pleaded not guilty.

The preliminary hearing was attended by a sprinkling of Karen Garcia’s family and closest friends, among them Johnnie and Linda Quintero, who did not testify directly but whose accounts to law enforcement about the events leading up to and including the last moment they saw Karen alive as she entered the apartment to pick up her daughter and her belongings on Jan. 8, were relayed to the court by Williams Police Department officers and Colusa County District Attorney investigators initially working the missing person’s case.
Investigators believe the Karen was killed not long after she entered the apartment around 11 AM on Jan. 8 and that her body was taken to Woodland later in the day.

Garcia-Vaca’s cousin, Alexander Vaca, testified that he picked up Garcia-Vaca in Woodland that evening and drove him to his mother’s home in Williams, and later to his grandmother’s home to pick up his car.

Investigators also testified that numerous text message exchanges obtained from the cell phones belonging to Garcia-Vaca and Karen showed that Karen admitted on Jan. 6 to entering a sexual relationship with James Blair, of Colusa, the evening before and that her and Garcia-Vaca’s relationship was officially over.

Today’s testimony revealed that Garcia-Vaca’s Google search on Jan. 6 involved guns and ammunition, and that he later asked his cousin for a gun on Jan. 7, but that he refused because he feared Garcia-Vaca might be suicidal.

Complete coverage of Garcia Vaca’s preliminary hearing, including cross-examination of the witnesses by the defense, will be in the Jan. 22 edition of the Williams Pioneer Review.