After Karen Garcia’s brutal murder just over a year ago, the investigation into her death received national attention last week, sparking renewed hope for many in Colusa County.
“In Pursuit with John Walsh,” which aired on Investigation Discovery Feb. 6, featured a detailed depiction of Karen Garcia’s story, from the months before her death, her volatile relationship with former boyfriend Salvador Vaca Garcia Jr., and the missing persons report and murder investigation.
Authorities are actively searching for Garcia Jr., who disappeared in January 2018 after police started questioned him about Karen Garcia’s disappearance. Garcia Jr. is now suspected of killing Karen Garcia on Jan. 8, 2018, in the home the two shared with their daughter in Colusa. Once police gained a search warrant for the home, they found a substantial amount of blood in a bedroom, but by the time of this discovery Garcia Jr. could not be located. That evidence, coupled with the pair’s tumultuous relationship, made Garcia Jr. the prime suspect in the case.
“This creep’s desperate need for control meant death to a loving mother and tragedy to a family already in the clutches of terrible grief,” said Walsh in the episode entitled “Crocodile Tears.”
Those who knew Karen Garcia well knew something was wrong when she did not show up for a vigil held for her sister, who had died in a head-on car collision on Interstate 5 just days earlier.
During the episode, Angela Castañon, friend and co-worker of Karen Garcia’s, said she had a gut feeling that something was wrong. While handing out missing person flyers in Woodland, she discovered Karen’s car in a shopping center parking lot. Slumped over inside was Karen’s body.
“I would constantly replay everything for a long time,” Castañon said. “And think about her when I would wake up, and before going to sleep at night.”
Castañon said that it was hard to watch the episode because it brought back a lot of heartbreak and anger.
“It hurt a lot. I didn’t expect to see so many videos of her and hear her voice again,” said Castañon.
Linda Quintero, Karen Garcia’s friend who was also interviewed in the episode, said she still misses Karen every day but support received on the JusticeforKaren Facebook page and in the media makes her hopeful that Garcia Jr. will be caught soon.
“The producers did a good job capturing the realness of the story,” Quintero said. “The only part that was hard was watching myself describing what I miss about her, only to realize it’s much more now.”
After only four episodes, “In Pursuit” has already received tips that led to an arrest in another case. Luis Frias, on the run for murder, was arrested in Mexico, thanks to a tipster who contacted authorities after seeing a segment of the television show.
“I was hopeful, and still am, that this will help the search,” said Susan Crabtree, restaurant manager at Granzella’s and Karen Garcia’s former boss. “After seeing the fugitive from the first episode captured, it gave me even more hope. Now millions have seen Sal’s face, and I pray that someone will recognize him and turn him in.”
Authorities believe that Garcia Jr. may have fled to Mexico after discovering the stolen Toyota van that he was believed to be driving near the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Some people say, ‘oh they’ll never find Sal, he’s in Mexico,’ etc. but I say ‘don’t even think that.’ I believe it will happen one day. It may be next week, next year or even 10 years, but I believe it will happen. I just would like it to be sooner than later,” Crabtree said.