Salvador Garcia-Vaca, accused of murdering Williams native Karen Garcia in January 2018, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter on Tuesday, admitting to the kidnapping and robbery of the victim following an altercation, in addition to a weapons enhancement charge.
“The decision to resolve this case was not an easy one,” said Colusa County District Attorney Matthew R. Beauchamp in a press release. “I had numerous heartfelt conversations with the victim’s family explaining the state of the evidence and listening to their concerns.”
According to Beauchamp, the “recently jilted” defendant admitted that he killed Garcia in a fit of spontaneous rage and jealousy.
“But intent to kill is only one of the elements necessary to prove a murder charge,” said Beauchamp. “Heat of passion negates malice according to well established legal principles. After looking at all the facts of the case, both good and bad, as well as looking at important procedural issues and recognizing I had a critical yet recalcitrant witness, I determined that it would be extremely difficult to prove malice beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no question the defendant killed Ms. Garcia-Romero. The question at trial would be whether he killed her in the heat of passion or with malice. Without malice there is no murder conviction. The last thing I wanted was for the defendant to be convicted solely of voluntary manslaughter and be released from prison after six or 11 years.”
Garcia-Vaca originally pleaded not guilty in September 2019 to one count of murder with special circumstances for lying in wait as well as a battery charge stemming from another incident with the victim in December 2017.
Garcia’s body was discovered in a car parked in a Woodland shopping center parking lot in January 2018, one week after she went missing. An autopsy later determined she had died from blunt force trauma.
Garcia-Vaca, the victim’s ex-boyfriend and father of her child, was questioned by police during the week Garcia was missing. Soon after, Garcia-Vaca fled. Around that time, police obtained a search warrant to search the home that Garcia-Vaca had shared with the victim and found a substantial amount of blood in a bedroom.
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. Garcia-Vaca was arrested in August 2019 by the United States Marshals in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, and extradited back to the Colusa County Jail, where he has remained in custody awaiting trial.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Garcia-Vaca also pleaded guilty to felony corporal injury for a domestic incident that occurred on Dec. 6, 2017, just weeks before her murder. He waived his pre-sentence credits from the time of his incarceration as well.
A sentencing hearing will be Jan. 6. According to the release, the Colusa County District Attorney’s Office expects the defendant will receive 25 years in prison in addition to the year and a half already spent in custody.