Some 36 hours after the massacre, Carmina was found by a transient about 20 feet from the road. He described seeing three doll-like figures in an open field; then one of the "dolls" suddenly moved.
"I hear this jump. I hear, 'Oh my God!' And I believe it's my dad coming back," Carmina explained. "I froze up. I was like, 'If I play dead, he won't have to do anything else to me.'"
That a 3-year-old survived for 36 hours in an open field with a slit throat, stunned doctors.
"When she arrived there was no question that there was something about her character and grit that allowed her to survive," said Dr. Dennis McLeod, who was in the ER at the Petaluma Valley Hospital. "She shouldn't have survived the injuries that she had."
Inadvertently, Carmina had kept her head down, covering her neck wound, doctors said. Helped by the heroics of the Petaluma Valley Hospital staff, she gained strength over the next three weeks and broke the hearts of the nurses with a picture of a puppy in a coloring book.
"And, she took a red crayon, and she cut the dog and put a line on the dog's paw and on the dog's neck. And she said, 'My daddy did this,'" said Petaluma Valley nurse Nancy Corda.
Carmina's father was captured 800 miles away in Los Mochis, Mexico. His five-day reign of terror was put to an end, and when in police custody, he admitted to the murders of his wife and daughters. Ramon Salcido then told reporters he was "not really" remorseful for his actions.
Details of the horrific killing had spread across Sonoma County, and Ramon was a despised man. Protesters gathered awaiting his return from Mexico, chanting: "Kill Him! Kill Him!"
Ramon Salcido went on trial for the murder of seven people in July 1990. After 12 weeks, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. Salcido is currently on death row in San Quentin prison.
While there was great hostility for Ramon, local residents embraced Carmina, the lone survivor of the rampage. By the time she left the hospital, there was hardly a person in Sonoma County who did not know her name, who did not wonder, what was next for the little-survivor-without-a-family?
With no relatives able to care for her, Carmina was adopted by an ultra-conservative Catholic family in Missouri, who she said proceeded to erase her identity -- right down to her name.
"To them, Carmina Salcido died April 14, 1989. And Cecilia lived. She was the miracle. She was the rebirth. She was a new person," she told "20/20."
Living in what she called a 19th century cultural time warp, Carmina said that "Cecilia" had limited contact with the outside world. At 15, she uncovered a hidden box of newspaper clippings, which contained horror stories from her past life.
Carmina said that when she confronted her adoptive parents they told her that in their minds, her past was a taboo trail, leading directly to hell.
"I was being told I was no better than my dad, that I had demon blood running in me, that I was, you know, I might as well have a cell next to him and live with him," she said.
To escape her adoptive family's home, Carmina joined a Nebraska convent at 17, becoming a cloistered nun at Sister Mariam of Jesus Crucified. After less than a year, she quit the convent and looked for a new home at a ranch for troubled teenage girls in Idaho.