According to her sister, Maria Del Refugio Chavez was a loving mother, a caring person, who didn't deserve what happened to her. What they apparently didn't know was that she was carrying on a romantic relationship with a married man named Pablo Pinto Mata, who authorities now believe is her killer.
They ran a business together, a ''botanica'' on Whittier Blvd in Montebello, where among other things they sold items used for the religion of Santeria. But something happened the night of May 7th , in 2009, which is the last time Chavez was seen alive.
She was 39 at the time. Her Honda Civic was found in Malibu abandoned a few days later, but nothing more. More than five years later, authorities were tipped off to a back yard in the small unincorporated area of Los Angeles County known as Valinda, where Chavez's skeletal remains were dug up earlier this month.
The Coroner identified what was left, and today the Sheriff's Department went public naming this Mata as the suspect in her killing. He was a ''person of interest'' five years ago when Chavez disappeared, was questioned, was cooperative, but never detained.
Now an international manhunt is on for him, he's a native of El Salvador but detectives acknowledge he could be anywhere. He's also suspected of additional sex crimes in Montebello and West Covina. Why he allegedly killed Chavez is a question the Sheriff's wouldn't or couldn't answer. Her family doesn't know either they just want him caught.