SALT LAKE CITY — He was "Uncle Ralph" to everyone he met.
"(He was) the life of the party," Ralph Salazar's niece Lisa DeHerrera said. "You thought you were having a good time … at the party, but as soon as Ralph walks through the door, that's when the party started."
In addition to being the man with the infectious smile, Salazar was a beloved family man, a successful businessman and a person looked up to by many.
On the morning of Dec. 14, the bodies of Salazar, 59, and his girlfriend, Alice Griego, 55, were found inside the master bedroom of Salazar's house, 2811 E. Ksel Drive (9420 South). An autopsy determined both were shot to death. Their bodies were found on a bed that was intentionally set on fire, according to investigators.
It's been more than a month since the killings, and while police say they have an "active investigation," they are not releasing information about a possible motive or suspects in the case.
And that leaves the family waiting for answers.
"I'm worried about it. One month and no arrests have been made," DeHerrera said. "They weren't petty thieves. They weren't in there for a TV or VCR or some little thing. These are heavy hitters to go in and do something like that."
Family members said nothing was taken from the house. DeHerrera said she believes the fire had been smoldering a long time before smoke was spotted by neighbors and reported.
The fire was contained to the bedroom, but the victims were so badly burned it took more than a week to positively identify them.
The families of DeHerrera and Salazar said they believe somebody in the public knows something about what happened and will eventually say something. When that happens, the families want the public to be aware of the killings so they can report any information to police.
Salazar moved to Utah from New Mexico when he was a teenager. He started working in siding. DeHerrera said her uncle met the right people at the right time and worked his way up from the bottom to become the owner of RS Aluminum.
"My uncle pulled himself up from nothing and made something of himself," DeHerrera said.
Salazar loved golfing, scuba diving and especially traveling, she said.
"When his best friend spoke at his service, I knew my uncle had traveled a lot of places, but he read a list. … He had to have named 30 or 40 countries. He traveled the world," DeHerrera said.
Like Salazar, Griego was also a hard worker. She moved to Utah from Colorado and got a job at Smith's Food and Drug in 1996. For more than 15 years, she worked in the store bakery.
"She was a dedicated worker. She never missed a day," said her son, Frankie Sisneros. "She honestly never took a day off until she met Ralph."
Even if she went out the night before and didn't get home until midnight, Griego would still be up at 2 a.m. to go to work, her son said. It was because she failed to show up for work on the morning of Dec. 14 that family members were alerted to the fact something was wrong.
Unlike Salazar, Griego never had a lot of money, and she spent most of her time dedicated to raising her five children alone.
"She was such a beautiful, strong woman," said Sisneros, who admitted that he and his siblings weren't free from getting into trouble growing up.
But no matter how much trouble they were in, he said, his mother was always there for them.
"She was just always a brighter tunnel," Sisneros said. "She'd tell us, 'All the stuff you've been though, there's always a better day. Don't let this stuff bring you down.'
"She was a good mom. I didn't have a dad. She was my mom and my dad, and it was hard growing up like that and growing up poor. But she just always made us realize that life was worth living," he said.
That's why the family was happy for Griego when she started dating Salazar about two years ago, Sisneros said. The two traveled together and last summer took a monthlong trip to Europe.
"He opened her eyes. I was so happy for her when he took to her Europe," Sisneros said. "They helped each other out. … She was in love. He was just a good guy all around with everybody. He accepted us. He didn't judge us. He got me a job. He got my brother a job."
DeHerrera said that was the way Salazar was with everybody.
"He would bring something special to every situation. His smile was infectious. He never did judge anybody. He never looked down his nose at anybody. He was kind to everybody," she said.
Salazar also had a special bond with each of his nieces and nephews.
"He had a way of making you feel important. He wanted to know about you. He wanted to listen to you. Right now, our family just wants answers," DeHerrera said.
DeHerrera said his family doesn't think Salazar had any enemies.
"That's the crazy thing," she said. "Because of his personality, because of the guy he is, he doesn't make enemies. He's incredibly polite, really polite guy. Fun-loving. He's a problem-solver. He's not the kind of guy who broods about things.
"There's no reason anybody close to him can think of (why someone) would do anything this horrific. It was really a bold move on their part. We're just looking for answers. The family loves him so much."
But DeHerrera also said her uncle had street smarts, could read people well and wasn't a pushover.
The last time anyone saw Salazar was about 10:30 p.m. Dec. 13 when he dropped off a friend at home after going to a local bar. DeHerrera does not believe the attack was random.
"We've all come to the conclusion that whoever did this was bold enough and they knew what they were doing," she said. "And if there was anybody else on their list, it would have been done."
Sisneros, on the other hand, said his family still has concerns.
"My family is worried. I'm still barely able to sleep. I have to check my windows and my doors at night," he said. "It's tough to just know someone can kill two people, burn their bodies and get away scot-free."
Anyone who has information about the incident can call Unified police detective Tyler Richman at 801-743-5915. Callers may remain anonymous.
"Somebody knows something. They have to. People talk," Sisneros pleaded. "Somebody knows something. Look at it if it were your mom and dad, and bring this person to justice because these were two wonderful people. I just want this person to be caught. Somebody knows something."
E-mail: [email protected]