A family returning to their Sylmar home Tuesday night from a trip to Mexico found the body of their 36-year-old wife and mother, the victim of an apparent homicide.
Officers were sent to the 14500 block of Lyle Street at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and found Virginia Cantero dead inside the residence, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Her brother said he suspects she was slain shortly after her husband and three teenage children had left for a long holiday weekend in Mexico.
"I called her the last few days … no response," said her brother Sean Soto.
She had not gone on the long weekend trip to Mexico with her husband, with whom she was estranged, and three teenage children.
Her car was taken and later found. Still missing is her new friend of recent months.
It was someone others close to her say they did not trust, and now suspect.
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Soto said when he visited his sister Friday, everybody else was gone, but for the new friend.
"He fooled us," he said.
Detective Christine Moselle, of the LAPD Valley Homicide Bureau, said police are of the information and are following up leads.
Moselle said they are not ready to name a suspect and declined to comment on whether there was any sign of forced entry.
Those who loved her said her life had not always been easy. In the past year she had lost her mother and grandmother, and earlier one of her brothers.
"She endured a lot of losses, and she overcame it, too. She was still working," said Estashia McGinnis, a longtime friend.
McGinnis recalled how her friend helped her through a tough period when she lost her home.
"She fed me, she clothed me" said McGinnis. "Never charged me nothing. When she cooked, she made sure I had a plate, too."
Added Soto: "She loved her kids, would give her shirt off her back for anybody."
Police said an initial investigation revealed that Cantero "was a victim of a violent homicide," though an autopsy was pending to determine her cause of death.
Responding officers met family members at the residence, and homicide detectives were called to the scene when the woman's injuries were determined to be suspicious, Moselle said.
Investigators believe the woman had been dead for "at least several days," Moselle said.
Anyone with information on the case was urged to call 877-LAPD-247.
City News Service contributed to this report.