Texts and death in Oceanside

Messages of love...and death

Salazar confronted Garcia about messages he’d seen on her phone at the Pit Stop Diner. It was his 24th birthday.
  • Salazar confronted Garcia about messages he’d seen on her phone at the Pit Stop Diner. It was his 24th birthday.
  • Image by Bob Weatherston

Arturo Salazar in court, June 17, 2013

Arturo Salazar in court, June 17, 2013

Edith “Andrea” Garcia

Edith “Andrea” Garcia

In 2006, when he was 17, Arturo Salazar came north from Oaxaca, Mexico. He attended El Camino High School in Oceanside where he met 15-year-old Edith Garcia. “She was the woman that I loved from my youth on,” Salazar remembered. His true love went by her middle name, Andrea.

Salazar lived with Garcia’s family for five years. But in August of 2011, he was “removed to Mexico,” according to Garcia’s mother, Maria Garcia. Only two months later he was back in Oceanside; that was when he moved into an apartment with then-20-year-old Garcia. It was not a lovers’ paradise. The couple fought often.

Oceanside police were called to their apartment in the 400 block of Brooks Street about 11 o’clock the night of October 21, 2011. Salazar told officers that he never touched her. Police took photos of the red marks on Garcia’s neck anyway.

Garcia had a complicated relationship with Juan Melgoza.

Garcia had a complicated relationship with Juan Melgoza.

After the incident, Salazar left Oceanside and may have returned to Mexico. But by June of 2012, he was back again in Oceanside, where he resumed his strained relationship with Garcia. Sometimes she lived with him, sometimes with her mother. At least once she tried renting her own place. And, sources later said, she briefly lived with a man named Juan, in March of 2013.

That same month, Salazar met with Garcia and her mother for a birthday dinner at the Pit Stop Diner to celebrate his 24th birthday. Unfortunately, the get-together turned into another fight when Salazar started asking about messages he had seen on Garcia’s cell phone. “It was the end of March when she told me that she didn’t want anything else to do with me,” Salazar remembered later.

Salazar and Garcia gave notice to their apartment manager. But for the time they remained at the apartment to wait out a lease. Salazar said he gave Garcia permission to date. That was when he learned the name of the other man, Juan.

Soon Salazar got a glimpse of Juan. “I would see him occasionally, for an hour, or for a little while, for a minute.” With increasing frequency, Salazar would arrive home from work and find Juan there. “Garcia was doing whatever she wanted, because she didn’t care anymore.” One time Salazar came home and found Juan sitting in the living room. “I just said, ‘You broke one of the rules.’” Garcia was not supposed to bring her date inside. Salazar denied it made him angry.

Home at 399 Leeward Court in Oceanside

Home at 399 Leeward Court in Oceanside

The couple vacated the apartment in May of 2013, and Salazar moved into a home on nearby Leeward Court. Garcia was gone only two weeks before she was back, knocking on Salazar’s door again. “She said, ‘If I pay the rent I end up with nothing.’” Salazar let her move in with him again. “I had two jobs. I paid all her household expenses. She didn’t have to worry about anything.” Salazar worked at a factory, plus he had his own cleaning business. “I was doing everything I could to make her comfortable.”

On Tuesday, June 11, 2014, Salazar went to work as usual, and then he joined Garcia at her mother’s home for dinner. Maria Garcia lived only three miles away. After dinner Garcia borrowed her mom’s truck and drove Salazar and herself home. That was about 10:30 p.m.

Soon after they arrived home, Garcia’s younger brother phoned to ask if he could use the family truck that night. Garcia said she would call him back and then she began a flurry of text messaging. Salazar noticed this right away. “After she hung up with her brother she started using her phone.” He was immediately suspicious. “At that time I noticed that she was nervous and she would not allow me to get close to her. And so I tell her, ‘Who is it? Why are you getting messages and you don’t want to answer them in front of me?’”

Garcia said it was a girlfriend and that her phone needed to be charged, and she plugged it into the wall. Then she phoned her brother and said she would drive over right away. “It was around 11:45 when she left the house,” Salazar remembered. “So to make sure, I called her brother to make sure she arrived with him.” The brother said he would bring his sister right back, and soon Salazar heard them pull into the driveway. “She is arriving to the house, and you can hear the truck outside.”

Just then he noticed Garcia’s cell phone begin to download messages. “She had the portable Wi-Fi device with her, so her phone was there charging, so the phone picks up the Wi-Fi and the messages start coming in that hadn’t come in before.”

Salazar looked. “They were messages that she had sent, and Juan had returned them.”

“He tells her, ‘Baby, I wasn’t able to answer you right away, but what happened?’” Salazar said when he saw this, he became sad. “Because I thought she’s not being honest with me.” Only a week before, “she said that this time she had ended it for good with this Juan.” Now Salazar knew they had never ended their relationship. “They had been communicating all along.”

Garcia’s brother drove away after he dropped off his sister. “So she comes back into the house.”

A day and a half later, Garcia’s family phoned Oceanside police to report her missing. Officers arrived and spoke with Salazar, who told them that Garcia had walked away after an argument. He said he was worried too, and showed them his cell phone so they could see all his concerned text messages to her girlfriends and her mother. And Salazar told police to go check with her new boyfriend, Juan, because she might be with him.

Police got permission to look into Salazar’s room, which was actually part of a three-car-garage that had been converted into a bedroom. When police found bloody rags in a trash bin, Salazar admitted, “Yes, I had used them to clean the floor.”

The knife was found between the stereo speaker and receiver in the cluttered room.

The knife was found between the stereo speaker and receiver in the cluttered room.

Eventually, Salazar told detectives that he had grabbed Garcia that night and he was only going to scare her, but then she started to scratch him. It was late in the interview when Salazar admitted picking up the knife. “It was on the table to the side of where the stereo was.”

Salazar claimed Garcia came toward him and reached for the knife. “And then I grabbed her from the back.”

He said when he put the knife to her throat she reached for it again. “She tried to stop me, she put her hand in, she grabbed my hand.”

Salazar admitted that he cut Garcia “two times, that’s what I remember well.” After the first slice, the knife slipped from his hand and fell to the ground and he had to bend over to retrieve it. To finish. “I let go of her and she dropped to the ground.” He remembered she fell onto her side, on the rug. “So I see her lying on the ground.”

The couple’s son and daughter, two and four, were there in the room. “At that moment they were just sleeping in the bed.” He was sure they were asleep. “Because the TV was still on, and so they are used to it, and they never get up when the TV is on.”

Police lifted a mattress and found a body hidden underneath.

Police lifted a mattress and found a body hidden underneath.

Salazar put Garcia underneath their bed, in the space between the mattress and the floor. “It was the only space I thought to put her in. I didn’t want the children to see her.”

“The body was located inside a bed frame,” Oceanside police detective Joshua Morris confirmed. Garcia was found crossways, along the foot of the bed, with her purse resting on her legs. Inside were her ID cards and cell phone. She was 21.

A year after Garcia’s body was found, Salazar told a jury that he never planned to kill her. “I still loved her. So I couldn’t wish anything bad for her, because she was the mother of my children.” He was 25 when they declared him guilty of first-degree murder.

In September of 2014, Salazar began serving a sentence of 26-years-to-life in Chino state prison.

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