Man convicted of 2018 murder sentenced to 25 years

Salvador Garcia-Vaca

Just two days shy of the three-year anniversary of when Karen Garcia went missing, the man charged with brutally murdering her in a spontaneous fit of jealousy and rage was sentenced to 25 years in prison. 

Salvador Garcia-Vaca appeared in a Colusa courtroom Wednesday morning for sentencing. He had changed his original not guilty plea in a deal in November and pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, robbery, battery and a special enhancement change, 

He admitted to the kidnapping and robbery of the victim following an altercation, and a weapons charge. He also pleaded guilty to a domestic battery charge stemming from an incident with the victim in December. 2017, just weeks before Karen Garcia was murdered. 

His sentence is to be served in addition to the 604 days he has already spent in custody during court proceedings. He was also ordered to pay restitution and fines. 

“The defendant is nefarious, heinous and downright evil,” said Colusa County District Attorney Matthew R. Beauchamp during the hearing Wednesday morning. “He has destroyed the lives of Karen’s mother and her siblings.” 

With shaking hands, Garcia-Vaca read a two-sentence statement, in which he apologized for the pain he caused Karen Garcia’s family and the false hope he fabricated by handing out flyers and talking to the media while she was missing, even though he knew she was already dead. 

Karen Garcia, the defendant's ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, was reported missing Jan. 8, 2018, and found dead inside her car in a Woodland shopping center parking lot Jan. 14, 2018. 

That same day, police lost contact with Garcia-Vaca after blood was found inside the Colusa apartment he shared with Karen Garcia as well as in his car.

During the week she was missing, Garcia-Vaca helped with the search efforts and even appeared on local television pleading for her safe return. Soon after local authorities started questioning him during their initial investigations, he fled. 

Authorities believed Garcia-Vaca had gone to Mexico after a stolen Toyota van that he was believed to be driving was located near the U.S.-Mexico border in October 2018. 

Prior to fleeing, authorities learned Garcia-Vaca and the victim had fought because she had made the decision to move out of the apartment they shared and was seeing another person. 

After being wanted for over a year, Garcia-Vaca was arrested in August 2019 by United States marshals in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, and extradited back to the Colusa County Jail. 

The sentencing hearing was quick and to the point – Judge Jeffrey A. Thompson reviewed the charges and handed down the sentence in just over 20 minutes. 

No victim statements were read during the hearing because several letters from friends and family were included in the plea deal documents submitted to the court prior to the hearing. 

Beauchamp said the defendant is “richly deserving of the prison sentence” outlined in the plea agreement.

As part of the plea deal, Garcia-Vaca also waived his right to appeal but he may still appeal certain portions of his sentence if he chooses to do so. 

Garcia-Vaca will remain in the custody of the Colusa County Sheriff’s Office until he is turned over to CDRC.


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