SAN JOSE -- Sometime on Saturday, Reina Figueroa, a popular schoolyard supervisor, wife and mother of two, stepped out of her East San Jose duplex to run errands unknown and disappeared.
She wasn't seen again until Tuesday, when her black minivan was spotted by her husband, who had been scouring the streets since rushing home from a visit to his grandmother in Los Angeles.
Figueroa, 49, was inside the vehicle, and had been dead for some time. On Wednesday, San Jose police announced that her death is being considered the city's 34th homicide of the year and that an unidentified man has been arrested as a suspect.
"We don't know what happened, or who was arrested," said her 20-year-old son, Manuel. "We're struggling, trying to go second-by-second to ease the pain."
Police were tight-lipped about the case on Wednesday, and said they hoped to release more information Thursday. Shortly after Figueroa's body was found, police said there were no obvious signs of trauma and on Wednesday they said they were still waiting for the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office to determine the cause of her death.
Police said only that the suspect in custody is a San Jose resident, and acquainted with Figueroa.
Figueroa worked at Selma Olinder Elementary School, less than a mile from her family's home on the cul-de-sac where East San Antonio Street abuts Highway 101. She was found in front of San Antonio Elementary School, also just blocks away from her home.
Manuel Figueroa said his mother started working at Olinder when his brother, now 15, attended as a child.
"Me and my brother grew up at that school, and my mother was really well-known there," he said. "Everybody loved her, all the kids and the staff."
He said the loss has left a void in the Figueroa home, a tidy duplex behind a well-manicured lawn with a wooden "Welcome Friends" sign on the front door.
"She was the head of the household," Manuel Figueroa said. "Anything that went wrong, she would take care of it. My father and I will walk around the house, and we'll see something and think of her. It's tearing us apart."
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.