Salinas cops believe missing man killed woman who disappeared on Thanksgiving

Salinas police say a woman who went missing on Thanksgiving is probably dead.

And detectives have a warrant to arrest the man suspected of killing her.

Trouble is they can’t find either one.

It all started on Thanksgiving, as Leticia Morales-Soto, 35, prepared the holiday meal at her home. Needing to purchase some items, she and her uncle headed to the store. After shopping, she received a call from a man named “Rafa,” who asked for a ride — nothing unusual, police said.

Morales-Soto dropped off her uncle and went to pick up Rafa.

Her family hasn’t seen her Morales-Soto since.

Leticia Morales-Soto

AN ALIBI IN THE MAKING?

The next day, around 1 p.m., a man named Rafael Carballo, 37, went to the Police Department, accompanied by relatives, to report being assaulted on Thanksgiving at Natividad Creek Park.

Police took photos of Carballo’s injuries, which were consistent with a struggle.

An hour and a half later — at 3:30 p.m. — Morales-Soto’s husband contacted police, saying he found her car at the dead end of Garner Avenue.

Leticia Morales-Soto’s car, which was found at the dead-end of Garner Avenue. Police are processing it for evidence.

The car was unlocked and abandoned. Police had the vehicle towed, and it’s being processed for evidence.

The missing woman’s husband took officers to Rafa’s house, where the cops hoped to speak with him. He wasn’t there, but the officers recognized members of his family. They were the same people who’d accompanied Carballo to the police station over the Natividad Creek Park assault.

Rafa and Carballo are the same person — and he hasn’t been seen since, although police have unconfirmed reports he’s in Mexico. His family has filed a missing-persons report.

Rafael “Rafa” Carballo

Putting the pieces together

At this point, police know that Carballo is Rafa and that Morales-Soto was last seen on her way to pick Rafa up. They also know that Carballo reported being injured at Natividad Creek Park. Investigators focused their attention there.

On Nov. 24 and Nov. 27, Salinas police and the Search and Rescue Team for the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office scoured the park in hopes of finding Morales-Soto. The officers, however, found no evidence and no leads.

Today, police released a statement saying they have a warrant to bring in Carballo.

“Based on the circumstances of this case, detectives have secured an arrest warrant for homicide on Rafael Carballo (Rodriguez),” police said. “We believe Carballo met with Morales-Soto and is responsible for her disappearance.”

Police are still searching for Carballo and Morales-Soto and want the public’s help.

To help

Anyone who may have seen Leticia Morales-Soto or her vehicle Nov. 22 or 23 — Thanksgiving or Black Friday — is urged to contact the Investigations Division at (831) 758-7226 or Detective Roman at (831) 758-7913. If anyone sees or knows the whereabouts of Carballo, call the Salinas Police Department at (831) 758-7321.

OTHER COVERAGE

Salinas Police Looking for Missing Woman, Suspect Wanted For Homicide (KION Central Coast News)