Suspect in Kayla Gomez case identified by source

Local News

At a 1:30 p.m. press conference at First Baptist Church in Bullard, local officials confirmed the body of Kayla Gomez-Orozco had been recovered.

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said Kayla Gomez, 10, was found in a well on Saturday night. She first disappeared on Tuesday evening from Bullard First Assembly Church during a prayer service.

Smith said the child’s body was found through an investigative lead. After obtaining a search warrant, investigators determined her remains were in a well near a family member’s home at the location off the 22000 block of Old Jacksonville Highway. She was still in the clothes she was last seen in when Tyler Fire crews helped recover the body, after midnight.

The body was sent to Dallas for autopsy Sunday morning.

Authorities are still searching the residence and vehicles at the location for more evidence. 

The scene where Kayla disappeared is about three miles from where she went missing.

The family member who is believed responsible for her death is currently being on an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer. He is currently in the Smith County Jail. No bond has been set. The man’s name has not been released, but officials say the relative is either 23-years or 24-years-old.

According to a law enforcement source, the man is in the country illegally and had been previously deported for a violent crime in 2014. He has been identified to KETK as Gustavo Zavala, 24, of Bullard, according to the source. Judicial records show Zavala was arrested for assault causing bodily injury twice in 2014.

A motive in the homicide has not been released.

On Saturday night, a law enforcement told KETK the person responsible for Kayla’s death is an uncle. A family member says the man is a cousin who “acted like an uncle to Kayla.”

A timeline of events is still being worked by investigators.

Sheriff Smith said the Cherokee County District Attorney and Smith County District Attorney will work together to decide charges to be brought against the suspect, upon a formal arrest.

Tyler ISD has organized a vigil for Kayla Gomez at Jack Elementary School for Sunday at 5:15 p.m.. There will also be a vigil at Brook Hill School in Bullard held at 6:30 p.m.

 
The school district released a statement Sunday afternoon:
We are saddened to learn that the body of Kayla Gomez-Orozco, the Jack Elementary school student who has been missing since Tuesday, Nov. 1, has been found.  Our hearts and sympathies go out to Kayla’s family and friends as they come to terms with this painful and senseless tragedy.  We ask that you keep the students and staff at Jack Elementary School in your thoughts and prayers. Additional [grief] counselors from throughout the District will be at the Jack campus next week to provide assistance and support as needed for staff and students.

Parking may be limited. Non-Jack staff is asked to park at Faulkner Park nearest the Tyler Police station and shuttle as Tyler ISD buses will be on hand. Shuttles run from 4 p.m. until 5 p.m., returning to cars once the event is over.

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