Motive a Mystery in Death of SJ School Yard Supervisor

Police are not saying what could have motivated the suspect to slash Reina Figueroa's neck

Manuel Figueroa still can’t believe his mother is gone.

On Tuesday, 49-year-old Reina Figueroa was found dead inside her minivan parked in front of San Antonio Elementary School in San Jose at 12:45 p.m. Her husband Francisco was the first to find her.

Francisco Figueroa says his wife's neck had been slashed.

San Jose police have arrested Oscar Ayala, 43, in connection with the murder, but police would only say he was the two knew each other. They did not release a motive.

Ayala is 6'8" and weighs 300 pounds. Police said because of his "distinct appearance" they believe residents may have seen Ayala on foot in and around the area of San Antonio Street and Jackson Avenue over the Labor Day weekend.

They are asking witnesses to contact the San Jose Police Department's Homicide Unit at (408)277-5283.

Manuel Figueroa says his mother was an inspiration, who worked tirelessly to make sure her two sons received a good education.

“She was a great mother and held this house together,” Manuel said. “It’s going to be really different now that she’s gone.”

Reina’s husband of 23 years says she was a wonderful wife and devoted to their sons.

For the past 12 years, Reina worked at Selma Olinder Elementary School in San Jose as a yard duty supervisor.

"Students would come up to her in the morning and hug her, and she would always say good morning or buenos dias,” Olinder Principal Carla Torres said.

Thursday, grief counselors were on campus helping students cope with Reina’s death. Many children expressed their feelings by creating a sign that said “We will miss you.”

Manuel says his mom loved working with the students, and he can't imagine who would want to harm his kind and giving mother.

“She’s just an amazing mother,” Manuel said. “And no one will ever be able to replace her.”

Ayala is expected to be arraigned Friday afternoon.

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