HAZELWOOD, Mo. — The family of 37-year-old Cristina Garcia-Smith is mourning after she was killed in her Hazelwood home while her children were inside on Sept. 4.
The victim's husband, Gregory Smith, is now charged with murder.
"When you see me, you see my sister. We looked a lot alike. She was much prettier, my sister didn't deserve this," Smith's sister, Susy Garcia said.
Garcia talked from her home in Yakima, Washington, where she, her sister and their two younger siblings grew up.
"We've got lots of aunts and uncles. Our cousins are like our brothers and sisters—that's how close we are," Garcia said. "We were really close and she was just so far away."
Their parents worked in a local preschool, where her sister's passion for early childhood education started.
"She loved kids," Garcia said. "We were looking through pictures (and) she has pictures with everybody's kids before she even had kids."
Cristina carried her love for children to the KinderCare Learning Center in Creve Coeur when she moved to St. Louis in 2018.
She lived in Hazelwood with Smith, and their son and newborn daughter.
"I didn't really know him," Garcia said. "I knew he was with my sister for 10 years, but he didn't really come around to family functions." Garcia-Smith and Smith married last December.
A month later, he's now accused of killing his wife inside their home.
"Like was she just somebody not important? It was just devastating," Garcia said. "I didn't know him, so I didn't know it could get that far."
She also said she didn't know that was the kind of danger that her sister could be in.
"I didn't know he was capable of that," Garcia said.
The couple's 9-year-old son called the police. Officers found him and his sister, and their mother's body around 4 a.m.
"He knows what he saw was real, and that's sad," Garcia said. "That's sad that his father would put him through that."
Now they're left with her memory and hoping others learn from their loss.
"My sister was a loving person. My sister did so much good. Everyone that met her loved her," Garcia said. "Unfortunately, she loved to death and that's what happened to her."
The staff at KinderCare in Creve Coeur, in a statement, said Smith-Garcia was "one of those people who always had a smile for you. She welcomed everyone—children, families and teachers—into our center, making them feel like they were part of our center family. She was a ray of sunshine.
"Many of our teachers said that they learned so much about how to care for each child's unique needs just from watching (her) interactions with the children in our care."
The family has established a GoFundMe account to help with funeral expenses and establishing a trust fund for Cristina Smith's children.