"I look at him and go, 'I know who you are. I know who you're going to see. Tell her I say hi,' " she recalled.
Rouda, a self-described news junkie, said she recalled the chance encounter because it was the night before the funeral of Rosa Parks in Detroit, which she saw reported on television and noticed that Villaraigosa had attended. Rouda said that at the time, she chose not to tell anyone about meeting the mayor because she thought it was a private matter. She spoke only after Times reporters contacted her recently.
Salinas subsequently moved to another condo in Studio City. In the meantime, Villaraigosa and Salinas crossed paths professionally over the next year.
On March 20, 2006, Salinas was in New York to cover Villaraigosa, who was visiting Mayor Michael Bloomberg to discuss education reform.
Three months later, she went to Sacramento to cover Villaraigosa as he stumped for legislation to give him some control over Los Angeles' public schools. Salinas covered a news conference and appears alongside the mayor in pictures taken by a Times photographer. One of the photographs was published in the newspaper and caught the attention of Villaraigosa's staff, who knew of their building relationship and privately worried that word of the affair might leak out.
Then in September 2006, Villaraigosa played a direct role in the medical care of Salinas' mother, Yolanda Avila Fernandez, who was being treated for cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to sources familiar with her case. The mayor consulted with doctors on a regular basis and appeared in Fernandez's hospital room with her family on the eighth floor of the complex's north tower, serving as an emotional anchor and an unofficial spokesman for Salinas and her siblings.
Fernandez was eventually transferred to USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center east of downtown, where a doctor described the mayor as "a model citizen."
Fernandez died Jan. 4. Two days later, Villaraigosa flew to Phoenix to attend weekend memorial services for her at the Greer-Wilson Funeral Home.
"He did come for services," said Eddie Lopez, the funeral home's general manager. "I remember him being there."
All along, Villaraigosa and his aides remained silent about the relationship.
Then in late January, rumors about the Villaraigosas' shaky marriage escalated after a local Internet blog reported that the mayor and his wife had separated.
In an interview with The Times, Villaraigosa denied the report, which was fueled by the fact that he had stopped wearing his wedding ring, a point cited in the blog item. Aides said Villaraigosa, who had lost weight, stopped wearing the ring because it was slipping off. He was wearing it during the interview.
The last time Villaraigosa spoke publicly about his personal life was June 11, when he held a news conference to talk about the split with Corina Villaraigosa. At the time, he would say only that he felt a "personal sense of failure" about the breakup and hoped everyone would respect his family's privacy. The next day, she filed for divorce.
But speculation continued to build about Salinas, whose name and picture appeared on Internet blogs, along with allegations that she was pregnant.
Asked Tuesday whether Salinas is pregnant, Villaraigosa said: "I can tell you emphatically that that question is outrageous and the answer is no, she is not pregnant."
Villaraigosa is not the first politician to be linked to Salinas. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, (D-Los Angeles), confirmed in a recent interview that he dated Salinas in 2003 when he was divorced from his wife; the two have since reunited. Nunez is a longtime Villaraigosa friend and political ally.
Salinas has worked as a radio and television journalist in Los Angeles and Phoenix for more than 13 years, according to her Telemundo biography.
She covered the political beat until she disclosed her relationship with the mayor. Her duties were then expanded to include general assignment stories and working as a backup anchor, according to a statement from the station and company spokesman Alfredo Richard.