‘The only reason I can think of is evil’: Family mourns, looks for answers after murder

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DUNCAN, Okla. - Life was just starting to get better for Linda Salazar.

After a somewhat tumultuous childhood, the 20-year-old had a child of her own and a steady job that she loved.

"From the moment she had her baby, she changed," said her aunt Teresa Corp. "She wanted to do everything right for her baby. She wanted to give her a good life."

And then as quickly as things changed for the better, they changed irreparably for the worse.

Police found Salazar's body Monday morning, her throat slit. Her family became worried Saturday night when her mother couldn't reach Salazar by phone.

"She tried to call her back all that evening, back back back, and the phone would ring," Corp said. "Then all of a sudden, it stopped ringing and went straight to voicemail. Linda is like the rest of us -- the phone is in her hand, her phone never went dead, never. So that was a red flag already."

The next 36 hours became a mad scramble: contacting Salazar's boyfriend, calling the police and trying to reach the father of her child, Balthazar Sanchez-Garcia.

Salazar's family says Linda and Sanchez-Garcia were together Saturday morning so he could give her money for childcare. However, neither of them returned home.

The Stephens County sheriff believes Sanchez-Garcia stole Salazar's white 2005 GMC Yukon, which has an Oklahoma tag 444-AFH.

Sheriff Wayne McKinney told NewsChannel 4 he believes Sanchez-Garcia is headed toward Mexico, calling him a "person of interest" in the crime.

"They say he's a person of interest but me and my family strongly believe he is the responsible person," said Corp, adding their relationship was violent at times.

Though Salazar had moved on to a new boyfriend, Corp says Sanchez-Garcia never did.

"It's just senseless because he didn't just keep her from everyone else. He's now keeping her from us. And I think that's what he wanted. This has been so hard and people will never understand until they go through something like this. It's horrible," she said.

The news is even tougher to swallow knowing Sanchez-Garcia was in the family home for holidays and meals. Salazar's aunts say they loved him like they loved Linda. Now, the family fears for its safety, as it tries to plan a funeral and memorial services.

"We're all going to be carrying our guns because we don't know if he's going to show up," Corp said, noting Salazar's 18-month-old baby will not be at the funeral for her safety.

"I tell myself to be strong and I catch myself looking over my shoulder, and I catch myself, 'Where's my daughter, where's my son?'" said Viviana Garland, Salazar's aunt. "And I catch myself terrified and I don't want to give him that, because he's taken enough."

"I've ran this through my head for the past days and days, and I try to make sense out of it, and I try to understand why it happened," Garland said. "And the only answer I have is evil."

The heartache has been constant, from the initial disappearance to the moment the media broke the news to the family, Garland said. They just want justice for the girl who would bake brownies for them on a whim or was content to give gifts rather than receive them.

"He needs to be caught before he hurts someone else," Corp said of Sanchez-Garcia. "I will get justice for my baby girl, I don't care if it takes me years. We will find him and he will pay for what he did to me, my family, and to Linda."

In the meantime, Garland and her family want the community to remember the happiness Salazar expressed, whether she was in a good mood or a bad mood.

"Love your neighbor, love your friend, love your kids for my Linda," she said. "Love for her because she can't love us anymore. And perhaps if we love each other in honor of her, perhaps we can change some lives."

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Salazar's funeral services.