Son of woman found dead in Santa Fe River says she had ‘very loving and nurturing soul’

April 4, 2019

Sandra Salazar was troubled at the end of her life, her family says, but they also remember her as an inspiration — beautiful, loving, caring.

Salazar, 62, was found dead in the Santa Fe River near the 500 block of Alto Street at about 7 a.m. March 21. Police suspected at the time that alcohol was involved in her death; there were no signs of foul play. Her head was found submerged in the river, and she might have been drinking heavily, fallen into the water and drowned, police said.

A final report from the state Office of the Medical Investigator is pending, according to her family.

“She was really just a very loving and nurturing soul,” Salazar’s son Michael said. Though Michael Salazar was very close with his mother, he said she had struggled in recent years with alcoholism and possibly depression, and he had seen her increasingly less.

“It was really difficult for me and the rest of our family,” said Michael Salazar, who is 24 and works as a baker making chocolates and other desserts at New MexiCann Natural Medicine, a Santa Fe cannabis dispensary. “It was something that I couldn’t help her with.”

He said he hoped acknowledging his mother’s alcohol addiction would help others in Santa Fe going through similar difficulties.

Born and raised in Santa Fe, Sandra Salazar grew up at a home near Old Santa Fe Trail, according to her family. She graduated from the College of Santa Fe with a degree in public administration. She married and divorced Kenneth Salazar in 1979, but they had an on-again, off-again relationship. They had three children.

Kenneth Salazar remembered Sandra as very social and attractive. They met at the Plaza, where they used to walk, at a time when the area was mostly locals rather than tourists, he said.

“When she was young, she was like the most beautiful woman in town,” Kenneth Salazar said. “She was something else.” He said he had tried to remain friends with her recently, but her addiction made things difficult, and that she had become homeless. Michael Salazar said a displacement center had helped his mother find an apartment, but she hadn’t been living there recently and likely had been staying at shelters in Santa Fe.

“She was in a bad way,” Kenneth Salazar said.

Michael Salazar saw his mother for the last time at his father’s house, on the Saturday before she died, when she gave him and his girlfriend her blessing for their relationship, he said.

“She was the one who taught me how to eat and cook, and I’m a chef now,” Michael Salazar said. “I remember her every day.”

A public memorial is planned at 11 a.m. Saturday at Grace Community Church, 2247 Camino Carlos Rey.