Before she was killed alongside her employers, the 57-year-old was a devoted wife and mom
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Living in extreme poverty in El Salvador, Veralicia Figueroa just wanted to give her children a better life.

In 2002, she moved to Washington D.C., hoping to find employment that would pay for her children’s college education. When she landed a housekeeping job for Savvas Savopoulos and his family, she was able to set aside tuition money for her children each week.

It seemed to work: with her financial support, her two children completed college in El Salvador. Her son now works as an engineer; her daughter is a supply manager in a hospital.

“She loved them very much,” says housekeeper Nelitza Gutierrez, who worked with Figueroa in the Savopoulos home. “She was very proud of them, but she missed being with them.”

Now that her children were done with college, Figueroa was planning to leave America to return to her native El Salvador. “That’s where her heart was,” says Gutierrez. “She wanted to go home.”

But her plans were cut short when she was killed in a quadruple homicide alongside her employers, Savvas and Amy Savopoulos and their 10-year-old son Philip.

A police spokesman tells PEOPLE that Figueroa was likely not the intended target of the murders, but merely “was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Gutierrez agrees: “She was a nice lady,” she tells PEOPLE. “I don’t think anyone wanted to hurt her.”

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A Family in Mourning

The senseless murder has devastated Figueroa’s family and friends. “I cry all the time, just thinking of her,” her friend, Francesca Mora, tells PEOPLE. “She was a good lady. She was honest and generous and loving. She took care of other people, and always had a smile. I can’t believe she is gone.”

Figueroa had married a childhood friend, Bernardo Alfaro, in 2008. Alfaro tells the Washington Post that he is crushed by the loss of his wife.

All I can say is I m very sad, Alfaro told the newspaper. I don t want to do anything.

Leaving Her Legacy

As those close to Figueroa mourn her tragic death, they take some comfort in what she was able to accomplish. “She always carried pictures of the children in her purse. They were the background on her phone,” says Mora. “She loved to talk about how successful they were, and how they had promised to take care of her when she went home.”

Her friends have set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds to send Figueroa’s body back to El Salvador. “We just want to help,” says Gutierrez.

Friends say they will always remember Figueroa’s example. “She made a lot of sacrifices for her family,” says Mora. “It’s just so sad that she’s gone.”

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