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Salcido Speaks of Death in Call to Mother in Mexico

Times Staff Writer

When Valentina Bojorquez Armendariz received the telephone call about 9 o’clock Friday morning, she immediately knew something was wrong. Her son, Ramon Salcido, usually in good spirits, was now in tears on the other end, calling from California to say goodby.

“ ‘Mama,’ ” she recalls him saying. “ ‘This is the last time you will hear my voice.’ ”

Her memory is fuzzy, and she sobbed openly Tuesday as she recounted the conversation, but Bojorquez recalled that her eldest child told her, “I have problems and I’m going to kill myself,” or “I have problems and they’re going to kill me.”

Then he hung up. She said she has not heard from him since.

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It was not until relatives began to call, spurred by news accounts in Mexico, that Bojorquez realized that her son was the knife-wielding gunman wanted for a bloody killing spree in the California wine country that began about 7 a.m. that day.

By 9:30 a.m. Friday, authorities had discovered Salcido’s wife, Angela, shot dead, his mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law slain miles away, and Salcido’s supervisor at work also shot and killed. The next day, the bodies of two of their three daughters were found dumped by a road, their throats cut. A third daughter whose throat was cut has survived.

Salcido’s mother reacted to the news with stunned disbelief.

Until the telephone call from Ramon Salcido last week, she said, she assumed that her son was living a kind of model life of the new immigrant, adapting himself admirably to foreign ways in his new country.

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“I haven’t eaten or slept or washed clothing or anything since that call,” said Bojorquez, 49, as she stood outside her back door sobbing. “I’m all nerves. I want to see my son. I want to know how he is.”

And if her son does call again, Bojorquez says she will have advice for him. “Even though it pains my soul, I’ll tell him to give himself up,” she said, wiping away tears. “If he’s not guilty, he should have nothing to fear. . . . He believed in his family. He loved them, and was very proud of them. I don’t believe that Ramon could have done this.”

It seems no one who knew him in Mexico can fathom the possibility that the outgoing, affable boy and man they knew and loved could be one and the same with the sadistic slayer depicted by California authorities.

‘Don’t Believe It’

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“I still don’t believe it,” said Edel Fernandez, who says he grew up with Salcido in the tree-lined, working-class neighborhood of Colonia Anahuac, not far from the center of this bustling agricultural and seafood processing city on the mainland, 20 miles from the Gulf of California.

“He was just like everyone else. He was very peaceful. He had fights like everyone else, but it was nothing violent,” said Fernandez, 25, who is now a sportswriter with El Debate, a daily newspaper in Los Mochis.

At least one acquaintance hinted that Salcido may have had a darker side, perhaps a criminal past, but she declined to provide further information. A cousin said that Salcido left a wife and child behind when he left for the United States eight years ago, but his mother denied this. She said, to her knowledge, he had not married the woman, who, the mother said, had become pregnant by another man.

Authorities here said they were investigating to determine whether Salcido had any criminal record, and also to learn if he may have fled to his home area. “There is concern that he may arrive here,” said Jesus Enrique Berrelleza, commander here of the Sinaloa State Judicial Police.

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Widespread Incredulity

But, along the unpaved streets of Colonia Anahuac, and other places where Ramon Salcido was known, there was widespread incredulity that the skinny, talkative and sociable person whom they knew was the glaring visage that stared at them this week from newspapers and television. While Salcido may have ultimately experienced difficulties adjusting to life in California, he was deeply rooted in this fast-growing city of 250,000 inhabitants.

“He always seemed muy alegre (very happy),” said a cousin, Jesus Alonso Contreras Bojorquez, as he stood outside his wooden house, situated on fertile farmland on the outskirts of the city, where bougainvillea and rose bushes conceal one of the area’s many canals.

“I don’t believe he did it. I don’t remember him having a problem with anyone here.”

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Even non-relatives who had no particular reason to portray Salcido in a positive light professed shock at his current troubles.

At the Duarte family television repair shop, where Salcido worked for more than a year as a driver and general helper more than a decade ago, the plain-speaking owners had nothing but praise.

“He had a real good way of dealing with people,” recalled Daniel Duarte Garcia, the owner, as he stood behind the counter in the shop, framed by yellowing boxes of assorted television components.

“We never had any problem with him,” said Duarte, who expressed particular shock when told that Salcido stood accused of killing his boss in California.

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Ramon Salcido Bojorquez, according to his mother, was born in Los Mochis on March 6, 1961, the eldest child of a family that would include four sons and two daughters.

From all accounts, he and his family lived together in the simple two-room house on Calle Comonfort (named for a revolutionary hero), until he decided to leave for the United States about eight years ago. His mother, a very religious Roman Catholic--she wore a medal cross Tuesday proclaiming Jesus es Mi Senor-- said she promised Saint Ramon that she would name her firstborn son after him. He completed six years of elementary school in the neighborhood but dropped out during his first year in secondary school, taking the first of several jobs, his mother said.

Salcido was born into a family headed by a strong-willed mother and a father, Arnoldo Salcido Villarreal, who was frequently ill and would die in 1975 of heart problems at the age of 37, according to friends and relatives. The father had worked as a driver and maintenance chief for a local sugar mill, a job that provided a certain amount of security, until his death.

The family struggled, but there was always enough to eat.

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After working at the repair shop, Ramon Salcido took a position as a driver for a Carta Blanca beer distributorship, friends and relatives said. He apparently kept the position for more than a year, until he decided to leave for the north.

Exactly why Salcido decided to uproot himself remains murky. His relatives and friends say just that Salcido, like many of his countrymen, wanted to earn a more liveable wage and experience the “adventure” of the north. “Why does anyone leave,” asked his mother, who remarried in 1977. “Ramon wanted a better life.”

Salcido last visited his family here during the Christmas season of 1987, bringing his wife, whom they knew as Angela, and his three daughters from that marriage.

“We all had a great time together,” recalled Martin Salcido Bojorquez, 18, the youngest brother, who works in a tortilla factory near the family home. “She (Angela) was very beautiful,” added the brother, who noted that the wife spoke no Spanish, making communication difficult.

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Family members said they only knew of Angela, not the other woman in the United States with whom he had a child. During the 1987 visit, family members said, they saw no evidence of marital stress. And Salcido’s mother said that her son spoke of having a warm relationship with the in-laws he is accused of savagely murdering.


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