CHELSEA — Blanca Lainez’s life in Massachusetts began with a dangerous journey through Central America and Mexico and ended with bloodshed in an East Boston garage.
She arrived in Boston in 2014 after a treacherous trip from her native El Salvador to the Texas border, where she entered the United States illegally as a teenager.
Two weeks before she was set to turn 19 on June 30, Lainez was dead.
Her family plans to send her body to her hometown of San Vicente for burial after contractors found her dead June 15 in a garage behind a duplex at 54 Princeton St. in East Boston.
“I never imagined this was going to happen. Never,” Lainez’s sister, Dora Merino, said in an interview at her home in Chelsea. “If I knew this was going to happen, I would have sent her home to our mom.”
Lainez, 18, suffered undetermined traumatic injuries and her death is being investigated as a homicide, Boston police have said. They have not disclosed further details.
A friend, Nathaly Rodriguez, said she last saw Lainez the morning of June 14.
Rodriguez said Lainez baby-sat for her son while she attended a job interview.
A service honoring Lainez’s life is set for Saturday afternoon at Ruggerio Family Memorial Home in East Boston.
“I don’t have any idea who did this,” Merino said. “I don’t know who has a heart that bad.”
Merino, 39, said investigators told her family that Lainez was stabbed, though her death certificate says her cause of death is pending. Lainez was identified through dental records, she said.
Lainez’s family learned something was wrong last Wednesday when a detective visited another sister, Monica Lainez, at her job at a Back Bay restaurant, Merino said.
The detective presented Monica Lainez with a bracelet, cellphone, and identification card belonging to Blanca Lainez, and said she was likely the woman whose body was found in East Boston, according to Merino.
The next day, Merino said Monica Lainez called her at work and told her about the detective’s visit.
‘If I knew this was going to happen, I would have sent her home to our mom.’
“I started to cry,” Merino said. “I can’t believe this.”
Merino said her family paid $7,000 for Lainez to journey to the United States with a group of people so she could live with her siblings. Lainez is the youngest in a family of 16 children, she said.
Initially, Lainez lived in East Boston, but later moved to Chelsea, where she lived with Merino. She also attended East Boston High School, but dropped out sometime in 2015, Merino said.
After Lainez left school, Merino said she took her to Suffolk Juvenile Court in Boston in hopes of convincing her sister to resume her studies and help her transition to life in a new country. The court intervention did not help, she said.
Merino described her relationship with Lainez as strained. Merino left El Salvador before Lainez was born and they met when Lainez arrived in Massachusetts. Their mother remains in El Salvador.
“She missed my mom,” Merino said. “We were working so hard to try to help her.”
Lainez moved out of Merino’s apartment last year and was living with friends in Chelsea when she died, her sister said.
Merino said she and her other sisters have visited the garage where Lainez’s body was found. Dried blood covered the floor and lumber stored inside, she said.
“No one cleaned it up,” Merino said. “It’s so sad.”
A makeshift memorial of flowers, candles, and stuffed animals has formed outside the garage, which is behind a duplex undergoing renovations.
A vigil is scheduled to take place there Sunday night followed by a peace march to nearby Central Square, where a 17-year-old boy was stabbed Sunday night, said Sandra Nijjar, one of the organizers. The stabbing victim’s injuries were not life threatening, police have said.
“The violence in Central America, it’s really strong and they’re targeting young, young kids so their families, their parents are sending them away to save their lives,” said Nijjar, who is also from El Salvador. “For them to come here and end up dying, it’s very disturbing.”
Over the past weekend, Merino said she and her sisters went to the Square One Mall in Saugus to buy a dress for Lainez to be buried in. The dress is cream colored, Merino said, and comes from Charlotte Russe, one of Lainez’s favorite stores.
“She’s the last one,” Merino said. “She’s the baby.”Globe correspondent Miguel Otárola contributed. Laura Crimaldi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.