By Kelly Ryan

WILLIAMS (CBS13) — A custody battle is brewing between the family of a murdered Williams woman and the family of her ex-boyfriend, who is also the main suspect in her killing.

Karen Garcia was a young mother found dead inside her car in January. Her ex-boyfriend Salvador Garcia Jr. hasn’t been seen since.

Now his mother is asking for custody of the child they shared. Both grandmothers came to the courthouse today, one asking for custody, the other supported by a group of friends and family determined to stop that from happening.

“I feel we need to stand up for her,” said Barbara Gomes who held signs with two others in front of the courthouse showing support for Karen and her family.

Inside the courthouse, a custody hearing pitting grandmother against grandmother—Karen Garcia’s mother Gloria, and her daughter’s ex-boyfriend’s mother, Catalina.

Police call the child’s father Salvador Garcia Jr. A suspect in Karen’s murder. He hasn’t been seen since a few days after Karen’s death. Police say there is evidence he killed Karen.

CBS13 interviewed Salvador days into the search for Karen and just days before he was named as a suspect in her murder.

The couple’s child currently lives with Karen’s mom.

Tragedy struck the Garcia family twice in the first weeks of 2018. Before Karen Garcia went missing, her sister was one of six people killed in a wrong-way crash near Woodland in January.

Now, Salvador’s mom is asking the court to give her custody of the 2-year-old.

Karen’s friends and family say that can’t happen.

“I’m really worried about the baby because I think, what mother does not know where her child is. I think she would take the baby and bring it to Sal. And I’d hate to see that happen. What kind of lifestyle is it for a baby on the run?” said Karen’s friend and former boss Tootie Hackett.

It’s a case that has rocked the small town community of Williams after Karen Garcia was reported missing last January.

Ex-boyfriend and father, Salvador, initially helped in efforts to find her. Following her disappearance, police discovered what they say were signs of a homicide in her apartment and named Salvador as a suspect.

Karen’s body was found in a car in a Woodland parking lot. And that’s when Salvador vanished.

Karen Garcia’s sister told CBS13 their family is heartbroken about having to go to court, and still living in fear, hiding with the child, because Salvador hasn’t been caught.

Salvador’s mother didn’t answer any questions when leaving the courthouse.

The judge called for a continuance saying, for now, the child will remain with Karen’s mother.

Both sides will be back in court April 17.


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