Family of Auburn man found dead in trunk asks community for answers

AUBURN, Wash. — The family of the missing Auburn man found dead in the trunk of his car on Thursday pleaded with community members on Monday to come forward with any information they might have about Hector Galeano’s case.

“You’re trying to wrap your head around that your brother’s missing,” sister Toni Gonzalez said, “and at the same time, you’re trying to—in a whole other realm—trying to wrap your head around [the fact that] something happened to him. He didn’t pass away in his sleep. He wasn’t sick, you know, and there’s questions on—of course that.”

The 27 year-old was last seen early Monday morning leaving a friend’s place, when he spoke with Gonzalez by phone. By Wednesday, Gonzalez, who spoke to Galeano daily, realized she hadn’t heard from him.

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“I remember thinking, that’s weird that we only talked early Monday morning,” she said. “Usually there would be some kind of meme or text message.”

Police are still investigating what led to Galeano’s death, but they have said that Galeano’s car was seen entering the parking lot of Lakeland Hills Community Center around noon on Monday. They believe an unknown person drove Galeano’s car there with his body inside, parked it, and left. Police have not released a cause of death.

Gonzalez and her sister Monica Swarthout describe their older brother as a loving brother, uncle, and friend with a magnetic personality.

“He’s a treasure and I don’t think I ever met anyone that didn’t love my brother,” Gonzalez said. “Since the day he was born, larger than life,” Swarthout said. “There’s never been a moment that I’ve seen where he’s not smiling.”

Galeano worked at Legend Auto Sales in Burien as a salesperson and lived with his father in Auburn. His sisters said he loved to travel, dance, and sing, describing him as a young man with an contagious laugh and love for others.

“He really just had such a way of bringing out who you really are,” Gonzalez said. “Not even your best self or your worst self, just who you really are-- just who you genuinely are as a person. He just had an incredible gift.”

It’s why it’s almost impossible to believe, they said, that their older brother is gone.

“This wasn’t something expected,” Swarthout said. “It’s a complete shock to everybody in his life.”

Now, the family is leaning on their faith and asking anyone in the community with answers to come forward.

“There’s nothing too little,” Swarthout said, “that could possibly lead to something.”

“I don't think this was God's plan,” Gonzalez said. “I don't think this was it for my brother. He had so much more, so much more. And I think what he did have, he made the most of it. And I’m so thankful, out of any of us, he lived in the moment.”

Anyone with information about Hector Galeano’s case is asked to call the Auburn police tip line at 253-288-7403.

Statement from Hector Galeano’s family

In the weeks and months to come, there will be much said about what happened to my brother in the early morning of Monday, December 3rd. A lot of people are looking for answers, a lot of people want justice, a lot of people the loss of my brother still isn’t a reality. I promise you, other than having my brother back, the thing we want most are answers, justice, and a different reality. However, today all we can do is share with the world who our brother was. 

As far back as we can remember, my brother had a presence. You knew the moment my brother walked into the room. He drew people to himself. His deep dimples and giant smile led before his mouth did. And that’s probably for the best because you often needed a nice smile to cushion the words that came out of his mouth. His laugh was obnoxious in the best way possible and he laughed from his soul. In the worst of times and the best of times, my brother laughed from his soul. He was so spontaneous. He was always craving an energy around him. He had so much life in his personality and hated to waste time lounging around. If he was going to lounge, he wanted it to be at a spa or on the top of a hike, or the bottom of a waterfall, or his favorite, first class flights. He didn’t waste time feuding with people, getting his way, or dwelling on the things he couldn’t change. He wanted the most life had to offer him.

He spent 13 years with my moms side of the family and the last 13 years of his life with his dads side. It’s just like him to be exactly fair so that neither of his family felt left out. But we all know who he loved the most, himself. He was the most confident, self love advocate, selfie obsessed human I have ever known. He had incredible taste, and style that only he could pull off. He was always put together, clean, and he always smelled expensive. 

He was the first grandchild and first born on both sides of his family. He was the absolute most fun brother, cousin, uncle, and friend. Truly, the most fun. He loved his baby cousins and he relished with pride when his niece, nephew, and baby cousin were born. In his lifetime, he lived in 4 cities, traveled across America, and vacationed to places all over the world. He sought to be educated and wanted to be majorly successful in wherever he ended up doing. However, his biggest aspiration was to be a house husband. An average job, an average vacation, just getting by wasn’t the way my brother lived. He needed to do the most. The phrase EXTRA was created to explain how he lived his life. In fact, against my wishes, he bought a shirt that says it. He brought inexpressible happiness to every person he encountered and had the incredible gift to make people live in the moment.

Hector was the most sturdy person. Hundreds of people leaned on him throughout his life time. He saw so many friends and family to the other side of their hardships. From the time we were young, to the very last conversation I had with him my brother wanted those around them to know he was there for them. He would formulate sentences even if he didn’t know what to say. He was glue that held people together, he was humor that gave people a reason to laugh, he was joy that gave people hope in the dark, he was life that changed people, but more than anything Hector was THERE. Present, available, ready, always. If there is anything I could count on, it was that my brother would answer the phone when I called. 

My brother was 27-years-old when he took his last breath. 27 and the only thing my brother wanted was for his family and friends to live. My sister and I were going through my phone and both of us stopped at one picture in particular. It gave me chills the moment I saw it and my sister and I looked at each other and we knew. We knew that picture spoke our new reality. We knew that picture was our brother telling us to smile, to ugly laugh. To have each other. To shop. To fall in love. To raise babies. To celebrate often. To say thank you. To do it all. To "just live." And in the photo where he has his back to my siblings and I, his smile speaks without words like it always has. He didn’t have the chance to tell us, but when we saw this photo, as clear as ever, the photo spoke twelve words: “I’m gonna leave now. I love you. I’m so so happy. Goodbye."

Thank you to every person that made my brothers short life, full. Thank you to every person that has, in the last few days, shared photos, memories, prayers, and resources to take care of us and honor my brother. Thank you to the two perfect strangers that helped me get from San Diego to Seattle still breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. Thank you to the O family for your ridiculous generosity and clarity in the darkest days I have ever seen. Thank you every law enforcement officer, first responder, and medical team for doing the incredibly difficult job you do. Specifically the men that looked me in the eyes and told me they would do everything they could for my brother. Thank you. 

Most importantly, thank you Holy Spirit for never leaving him even in unknown places. Jesus, thank you for being the Advocate he sometimes didn’t know he needed. Thank you Father God, for giving him to us for 27 years, for embracing him and being the source of his joy for the rest of eternity. 

Lastly, Hector, my brother. My best friend, thank you. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough. But, thank you. Thank you for being the best older brother to all of us. Thank you for a childhood full of adventure and resilience. Thank you for the lessons you’ve taught us about life and optimism. Thank you for being the friend we all needed and for the memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you for your generosity and your overwhelming love for everyone you knew. Thank you for being genuine, sincere, authentic, and letting us know you. Thank you for your quick wit, humor, and being the first to make a fool of yourself. Thank you for living in the moment so we could have as much of you as we could. Thank you for loving us with everything you were and everything you are. Hector, thank you. If I could see you one more time, if I could say one more thing to you, I would say thank you. I love you so much and I miss you more than I know how to carry. 

This last week has been unlike any other seconds, minutes, hours, or days we’ve ever experienced and each second, minute, hour, and day after this will be unlike the last. Time stood still. Literally stopped. And then someone pushed play on life again. This is real. Life is still unraveling. Someone knows more about what happened to my brother. Someone drove my beautiful brother, left him alone, and parked him to be found three entire days later. If you know anything, I beg of you, please please come forward.