Gruesome 1989 Murders Send Police on Manhunt

Vineyard worker murdered his wife and slit the throats of his three daughters.

ByABC News
October 15, 2009, 2:10 PM

Oct. 15, 2009— -- A vicious massacre shattered the calm of California's beautiful wine country 20 years ago. Ramon Salcido, 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.

"I had been a part of well over 100 homicide investigations in my career, but I had never seen the level of viciousness," said Mike Brown, former detective with the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department.

Seven people died that day, but Salcido's tiny 3-year-old daughter, Carmina, managed to survive 36 hours in the garbage dump before she was rescued. Her two sisters were not so lucky.

"I look over at my sister Sofia, and she has this look of terror on her face. She knows something's terribly wrong. The atmosphere is just thick," Carmina told 20/20. "I'm looking up at him, [and said] 'Papa, please don't cut me.'"

Carmina Tells Her Story of Survival Exclusively to "20/20" Friday at 10 p.m. ET

Sonoma County detectives traced the trail of the murderer across 30 miles of wine country. For 20 years, Brown -- at the time a sergeant detective supervising the investigation -- has been haunted by nightmares, visions and smells from the horrific scenes of April 14, 1989. He told "20/20" it all began with news that someone in the Sonoma Valley area had been the victim of a gunshot wound.

At the Kunde Estate Vineyards, winery supervisor Ken Butti had been shot in the shoulder, though not fatally.

"We came out here to talk to him. ... He told us that the man who shot him was Ramon Salcido," Brown said.

Salcido was known as a hard-working, hard-drinking and hot-tempered vineyard employee. His young wife, Angela Salcido, came from a local staunch Catholic family, and may have been drawn to the "wild" side of the handsome Mexican immigrant. Soon after their wedding in December 1984, three daughters came in quick succession: Sofia, Carmina and Teresa.

"Sofia was a very quiet, reserved child -- very thoughtful, very quiet, very smart. She was the oldest," Carmina said. "Then, it was me who was crazy -- always into stuff, you know, climbing up the drapes and smiling big for the camera, getting into trouble, running off. And maybe Teresa was sort of the in between of both of us."

But bright memories of her sisters and mother fade to black when Carmina recalls her father.

"I was very intimidated and scared of my dad. He would come home, and you know, be drunk, obliterated," she said. "And I remember fights going on between him and my mom... probably a week before everything went crazy, or maybe even, it might have been the night before. And he just started, you know, slapping and punching her. Sofia was holding baby Teresa in the hallway, just terrified watching this. We just all stand back there with you know big eyes and just watch, terrified."

CLICK HERE to read an excerpt of Carmina's book, "Not Lost Forever."