More than five months after the murder of Karen Garcia, the suspect in her murder – her ex-boyfriend and the father of her two-year-old daughter – is still in the wind. According to Colusa County Superior Court records obtained by the Pioneer Review, law enforcement officials suspect that some of his family may have helped him avoid arrest.
Investigators obtained a search warrant in March to track a vehicle belonging to Catalina Vaca Garcia, mother of Salvador Garcia Jr. The unsealed search warrant was on file at the Colusa County Superior Courthouse in late April. The search warrant was executed by the Williams Police Department and was signed by Colusa County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Ufkes Olivera on March 29. It was returned on April 20. It has since been sealed at the request of the Colusa County District Attorney’s Office.
The last major update from law enforcement came on Jan. 19, when officials announced that they were searching for a black, 2011 Toyota Sienna van, with the license plate of 6NYB823, which they said they believed may be associated with Garcia Jr. More information regarding the van has come to light through the statement of probable cause for the search warrant.
According to the statement (or affidavit) of probable cause for the warrant – a sworn statement made by a law enforcement officer that outlines the factual justification for why a judge should consent to a search warrant – the van belonged to Rafael Jauregui Velazquez, who is married to Garcia Jr.’s aunt, Veronica Vaca Alexander. Velazquez reported the vehicle stolen to the Williams Police Department on Jan. 19, the affidavit said.
According to the affidavit, Rafael Jauregui Velazquez told investigators that he had returned home from a trip to Mexico and discovered his black 2011 Toyota Sienna van was missing, along with the vehicle’s keys. He informed investigators that when he asked his wife about it, she said she suspected Garcia Jr. took the van several days prior, the affidavit said. The investigator also wrote that they believed Veronica Vaca Alexander did not report the theft of the van for several days to allow Salvador Garcia access to a vehicle unknown to law enforcement to aide him in evading arrest.
“Prior information given to investigators was that this was a shared vehicle commonly used by Veronica Vaca Alexander and Catalina Garcia Vaca,” the affidavit continued. “Prior to Rafael Jauregui Velazquez reporting the van as stolen, neither Veronica Vaca Alexander or Catalina Garcia Vaca made any attempts to inform law enforcement of Salvador Garcia possessing or using the van.”
“Based upon the aforementioned officer statements, police reports and personal observations, your affiant believes Catalina Garcia Vaca is aware of Salvador Garcia’s whereabouts and she is assisting him to avoid arrest,” the affidavit read.
Colusa County District Attorney Matthew Beauchamp declined to comment on the search warrant, as did Colusa Police Chief Josh Fitch, who cited the ongoing nature of the investigation. Fitch did say that local and federal officials are still working diligently to find and apprehend Garcia Jr.
“We met with the U.S. Marshals Service last week, and he’s still a top priority,” Fitch said. “With the help of the Marshals, we’re still trying to find him.”
Catalina Vaca Garcia is being represented by Glenn County defense attorney David Nelson. Nelson said, unequivocally, his client had nothing to do with her son’s disappearance or Karen Garcia’s death, and said that the entire family had been harassed by law enforcement.
“They have,” Nelson said. “There are SWAT teams hitting houses of family members in southern California, who have absolutely nothing to do with what happened in Colusa County… She’s not aiding and abetting anything. If she was, why would she still be in Colusa County? Why would she still be working in Williams? For law enforcement to run into flights of fancy, to have no basis of fact for what they put in the search warrants, it is what it is. She has done nothing but comply, but she doesn’t know anything.”
He added that the best thing that could happen for everybody “is if he turns himself in and lets the chips fall where they may.”
Attorney Matt Smith, who was retained to defend Garcia Jr., cast doubt on the idea that his client was receiving help from family, and suggested that his client might even be deceased.
“I confirmed with the U.S. Marshals that there are license plate readers on the Interstate. I’ve confirmed that they have not had any financial connections between his mom and him,” Smith said. “The U.S. Marshals have followed the family, have gone to their homes, their work, and have pulled over family members for routine checks, and my understanding is that they’ve gone cold.”
Smith said he was last in contact with the Marshals about two months ago.
He added that the U.S. Marshals had “kicked in doors in Mexico” in their search for his client. He also said he had reason to believe that there is electronic surveillance that has been, and may currently still be in effect by the U.S. Marshals, but would not go into specifics.
Still, Garcia Jr. has yet to turn up.
“I think that at this point, I have a duty to see if he’s even still alive,” Smith said. “Some folks have been a little bit dismissive about that thought, but at this point, my client has had no contact with his mom or aunt, and they have no evidence of finances going to him. I’m wondering if at this point, I have to conduct an investigation into his death.”
Garcia hasn’t been seen since Saturday, Jan. 13, when he was present at a car tagging event in Williams, held to raise awareness of Karen Garcia’s disappearance and to help bring her home. Investigators believe that she was killed by Garcia Jr. on the day she was reported missing – Jan. 8 – the day after her sister and four other Colusa County residents were killed by a wrong-way driver on Interstate 5. Her family reported her missing to the Williams Police Department after she failed to show for her sister’s wake.
According to information included in the affidavit obtained by the Pioneer Review, investigators searched a residence on the 400-block of Oak St. in Colusa, where Karen Garcia and Salvador Garcia lived with their daughter, on Jan. 12, four days after she was reported missing. There they found “a large amount of blood,” which was later confirmed through DNA analysis to belong to Karen Garcia.
While that warrant was being executed, an investigator with the District Attorney’s office was interviewing Salvador Garcia Jr. at the Williams Police Department.
“Salvador quickly ended the interview and was allowed to leave,” the affidavit read. His car was seized, and blood in the trunk was later confirmed to be Karen Garcia’s. He body and car were found in Woodland the next day.
Anyone with information regarding the case is still being asked to contact the Colusa Police Department at (530) 458-7777. The department, in conjunction with the U.S. Marshals Service, is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Garcia Jr.