State to seek death penalty in murder of Kayla Gomez

TYLER, Texas (KETK) - Court documents show the Smith County District Attorney's Office will pursue the death penalty in the case against Gustavo Zavala-Garcia, the man accused of killing 10-year-old Kayla Gomez-Orozco.

District Attorney Matt Bingham filed the required paperwork on Wednesday, April 19 in the 241st Judicial District Court.

Zavala, 24, of Bullard, was indicted by a Smith County Grand Jury on Monday, January 23.

Back in November 2016, Kayla disappeared from a Bullard church during worship. Her body was found days later inside a well on the suspect's property.

A witness said they saw Zavala with Kayla shortly before her disappearance, according to an arrest affidavit. Family members said Zavala is a cousin who "acted like an uncle to Kayla."

During a polygraph test, the suspect allegedly admitted to causing Kayla's death, but he then recanted his answer, according to the arrest affidavit. 

A capital murder warrant for the arrest of Zavala was signed by Judge Jack Skeen on November 6.

On February 17, 2017, Zavala climbed on top of a basketball goal at the Smith County Jail and refused to come down.

Fire officials were able get Zavala down from the goal.

Sheriff Larry Smith said the incident was not an escape attempt, but Smith County Chief Deputy Deal Folmar tells KETK this was possibly a suicide attempt.

Authorities say Zavala has been on suicide watch since he was booked into jail.

He is being held on $10 million bond.

A motive in the murder has not been released by officials.

Pre-trial hearings begin on April 27 and Jury selection on August 17.


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