Alicia Ray did what many do at 20 years old: try to find their way.

Six weeks ago, the 2006 Sheldon High School graduate, moved back to Sacramento. She had moved to Texas in December 2007 with her mother, Eugena Taylor. But Texas was no substitute for the native Californian. According to Ray's mother, she longed for a return to Sacramento.

Sunday, firefighters found Ray's body at a 2205 West El Camino Road apartment where she had temporarily been staying with a friend. Her body was burned, and it appeared she had been strangled.

On Tuesday, Jose Duarte, 21, was charged with first-degree murder in connection with Ray's death. He also was charged with felony use of a dangerous weapon and with arson. He did not enter a plea during his arraignment in Sacramento Superior Court.

Ray's relatives say the young woman was strangled with a USB computer cord. Authorities told them her body was burned in an attempt to cover up the act.

"I know she didn't deserve it," said Xinh Nguyen, a longtime friend of Ray.

When Ray returned to Sacramento earlier this summer, relatives said they didn't see or hear from her much. She sent a text message to her brother, Lindbergh Carey, just before coming to Sacramento but did not contact him once she arrived, he said.

"I kind of knew something was up because you hadn't talked to her," he said, adding that the two usually stayed in regular contact.

Maurice Bass, Ray's cousin, said they spoke about three weeks after her arrival.

"She didn't let me know that she was in Sacramento right away," he said. He offered to let her stay at his home, but she wasn't interested.

Nguyen said she didn't even know Ray had returned to Sacramento until she heard about her death.

The night before Ray's body was found, she was at a friend's apartment, working on the computer and sending text messages until around 10 p.m., according to her mother. At about 10:30 p.m., her mother said, she called the friend at whose apartment she was found and asked if it was OK to have a man over.

That is the last contact that anyone had with Ray, according to her mother.

Ray's plan had been to go Sacramento to find a job and rejuvenate herself, her mother said.

Carey said it is unclear if his sister was truly looking for a job.

Relatives said they didn't know many of Ray's friends.

"It's just a big question mark in the middle I didn't know," said Bass, her cousin. "It just don't make sense and that upsets me."

None of the Ray's family had met Duarte.

Ray's remains will be flown to Los Angeles - where she was born - for burial.