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The Salinas Police Department has obtained an arrest warrant for a man suspected of murdering a woman who vanished on Thanksgiving Day, police said. The suspect, Rafael “Rafa” Carballo, 37, is being sought in connection with the disappearance of 35-year-old Leticia Morales-Soto, whose family reported her missing after she drove to pick up Carballo on the way the store on Nov. 22, Salinas police said. Morales-Soto’s family members told police that Morales-Soto was fixing a holiday meal and decided to drive to a store with her uncle to buy other items when she received a call from a man named “Rafa” who was asking for a ride, police said. The woman, who knew Carballo as “Rafa,” agreed and dropped off her uncle at another location before picking the suspect up, but that was the last time her family members saw her, police said.
Morales-Soto and Carballo were acquaintances, and the family told police that it was not unusual for her to give Carballo a lift, police spokesman Officer Miguel Cabrera said. On day after Thanksgiving, Carballo and members of his family went to the Salinas Police Department at about 1 p.m. to report that Carballo had been assaulted at Natividad Creek Park in Salinas the previous night. Police said Carballo had injuries that appeared to be consistent with being in some kind of struggle, and an officer filed a battery report. At 3 p.m. that day, Morales-Soto’s husband reported to Salinas police that he had found his wife’s car abandoned and unlocked at the end of Garner Avenue, several blocks west of Natividad Creek Park. Police arranged for the car to be towed and later accompanied Morales-Soto’s husband to “Rafa’s” home to talk to him, police said. “Rafa” was not home, but while in the residence, one of the officers recognized some of his family members from when the battery report was taken that afternoon and identified “Rafa” as Carballo, police said.
Salinas police, joined by the Monterey County sheriff’s search-and-rescue team, searched Natividad Creek Park on Nov. 24 and Nov. 27 but were unable to locate Morales-Soto or uncover any leads. Police said they believe Carballo is responsible for her disappearance, and later obtained the warrant for his arrest on murder charges. Carballo remains at large and may have fled to Mexico, police said. Cabrera said police are looking into leads they have received since releasing information about Morales-Soto and Carballo.
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