Twenty years ago -- a vicious massacre shattered the calm of California's beautiful wine country. A 28-year-old vineyard worker went on a killing spree that crossed Sonoma county -- ambushing co-workers, murdering his wife, slashing his in-laws, cutting the throats of his three young daughters and leaving them for dead in a garbage dump.
Seven people died that day, but Ramon Salcido's tiny 3-year old daughter, Carmina, managed to survive 36 hours in the garbage dump before she was rescued.
Carmina Salcido's story, told in her book "Not Lost Forever: My Story of Survival," is not only a tale of survival but of how the massacre affected others, including the detective who investigated it, a reporter who tracked the murderer's trail across 30 miles of wine country and the doctors and nurses who saved Carmina's life and nurtured her back to health.
Carmina tells her story for first time on "20/20." Read an excerpt from her book below.
Watch the story Friday on "20/20" at 10 p.m. ET
Excerpt From 'Not Lost Forever: My Story of Survival'
As the crowd gathered outside the police cordon, they felt the first waves of a panic that would eventually envelop Sonoma County. Rumors were already beginning to spread: Ramon Salcido had gone crazy. My entire family had been murdered. Ramon was still out there, ready to kill some more.
This was no drug deal gone bad. No foiled burglary that turned violent. It was a case of uncontrolled, unconscionable, inexplicable violence. And the likely suspect was nowhere to be found.
My grandparents' next-door neighbor Colette Thomas stood at the crime scene tape aghast. She and her two girls, Calah and Mary, had met the Richards family one day soon after they moved in, when Grandma was walking past their yard with Ruth and Maria. My young aunts, never shy, introduced themselves.
Thomas noticed right away that the family was "a little different." Grandma told her that she sewed all of her girls' clothing, which was well-made but looked like fashions from the 1950s. Whatever the case, the Richards family seemed happy. The girls laughed a lot; they obviously loved their dad, and were devoted to their mother, with whom they spent most of their days.
My grandparents weren't shy about talking about their very devout Catholic lifestyle, and Colette knew they belonged to some sort of underground Catholic group. Grandma was protective of her girls; they weren't allowed to go farther than a few houses away. Nor were they supposed to go into other homes -- even for birthday parties -- though the Thomas girls were welcome to visit Ruth and Maria at theirs. Once, they'd gone along with Colette and her girls to a horse show at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Grandma talked about how much her daughter Angela loved horses and riding -- even though she'd only been allowed to ride in a skirt -- and about my mom's talent for drawing the beautiful animals.
Mom always brought us along when she went to visit Grandma. But Colette noticed that Ramon didn't come as often. The few times she met him, he seemed quiet and reserved. My aunts told her daughter, Mary, that her parents didn't like my dad very much.
Now Colette and the other neighbors wondered in fear. Where was Ramon now? And where was my grandfather?
--- Grandpa was out making deliveries for UPS around noon when he got a call from his supervisor telling him to bring the truck in. There was an emergency—he was needed at home.
Grandpa couldn't imagine what could be wrong. Things were good at home. After work that day, he was scheduled to fly back east to see his sons. The night before, as he was packing for the trip, he had felt a sudden wave of peace and contentment. "A good feeling just came over me," he told my grandmother, taking her hand.
"Me too," she replied gently.
There was no sleeping in at my grandparents' house, and the girls were up when he left for work that morning a little before seven. Ruth had a cold, so he didn't get his customary kiss goodbye from her, but Maria gave him one. "Bye, daddy," she smiled.
Five hours later, Grandpa arrived back at the UPS station. The others there fell silent when they saw him; some averted their eyes as if afraid to look at him.
"What's the matter?" he asked his supervisor, fear rising in him like bile.
The man shook his head. "You just need to go home."
When Grandpa reached Lakewood Avenue, the street was filled with police cars and TV news trucks. It looked like a parking lot for some big event. A crowd of people hovered near the wide yellow tape that cordoned off the area in front of his house.
As he drove up, a young police officer motioned for him to stop and roll down his window. "What happened?" Grandpa asked.
"Who are you?" the officer demanded.
The cop's demeanor changed. He asked Grandpa to get out of his car and have a seat in the back of his police cruiser. Grandpa did as he was told, sitting with the door open and his feet on the ground as he waited for the officer to tell him what happened. But the young man seemed unsure of what to say. All Grandpa could gather was that someone had done something bad.
Then he understood. "All of them?" he asked, his voice cracking.
The officer nodded. "All of them."
The young officer was relieved when a Sonoma County detective walked up and introduced himself. He asked Grandpa to come with to the sheriff's office in Santa Rosa. He'd be safe there, and they could talk about his son-in-law, Ramon.
After speaking to the detective at the station, Grandpa called his sons and told them what had happened. As if he were trying to shake off some horrible dream, he drank cup after cup of coffee, but that just left him awake and numb. That morning, when he left for work, he had three beautiful daughters and a wife. Now they were all gone. And his granddaughters -- Sofia, Teresa, and me -- were missing.
Excerpt from NOT LOST FOREVER by Carmina Salcido, provided and reprinted by permission by William Morrow/ An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.