Suspect in Kayla Gomez murder set to be arraigned February 21

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The man who was arrested in connection with the murder of a young East Texas girl is scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday.

According to Smith County judicial records, Gustavo Zavala-Garcia is slated for an arraignment hearing at 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, in the 241st District Court of Judge Jack Skeen.

According to Zavala-Garcia’s arrest affidavit, on November 1, 2016, at 7:30 p.m., Kayla Gomez-Orozco disappeared from the Bullard First Assembly Church off the 51000 block of Highway 69 in Bullard. Witnesses reported the child was last seen walking from church’s sanctuary and into the lobby.

Authorities interviewed family members of the victim and were able to identify a cousin, who acted as an uncle, of the child as a suspect. He was identified by a Mexico ID card as Zavala-Garcia.

Investigators reported Zavala-Garcia said he left his home at 6:55 p.m., and arrived at the church at around 7:00 p.m., with his 3-year-old daughter in tow. He then claimed to worship for 30 minutes and left with his daughter, stated court documents. Zavala-Garcia also allegedly said he victim was sitting in a lobby chair at this time.

The suspect told investigators he arrived home at 7:35 p.m. Zavala-Garcia said minutes later his wife received a phone call from the mother of Kayla, who was asking if Zavala-Garcia had seen her daughter, the affidavit stated.

The arrest warrant mentions a church member who saw the suspect, his daughter and the victim together, shortly before Kayla vanished.

The suspect later told a member of the church that Kayla had gone back inside and sat in a chair, stated the affidavit. The child was discovered missing between 7:51-7:55 p.m. Authorities believe the suspect took Kayla with him in his vehicle from the church.

When detectives spoke with Zavala-Garcia’s wife, she said her husband returned home at exactly 8:04 p.m. She recalled the time because she had just learned Kayla was missing. This left a 30 minute discrepancy from what Zavala-Garcia had told officials, according to the affidavit.

Authorities received additional information that the suspect sometimes watched the victim in the playroom at the church.

The FBI was able to track cell phone data from his phone to determine Zavala-Garcia’s movements on the night Kayla disappeared. Cell tower tracking revealed the phone traveling in a northerly direction on Highway 69 from 7:40 p.m. and arriving at his home at 7:47 p.m., according to documents. The unaccounted 17 minutes are believed to be the time Zavala-Garcia put Kayla in his well outside the home, according to the affidavit.

On November 5, 2016, during a consented search, authorities found Kayla’s body in a concrete well outside the suspect’s home. At this time, the scene was secured and the suspect’s family was taken to another location.

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

A capital murder warrant for the arrest of Zavala-Garcia was signed by Judge Skeen on November 6, 2016.

On Friday, February 17, 2017, around 1:20 p.m., Zavala-Garcia climbed on top of a basketball goal at the Smith County Jail and refused to come down. 

A fire truck responded to the scene and authorities placed a “suicide blanket” underneath him in case he decided to jump. The blanket turned out to be a bounce house provided by Cindy’s Balloons Party Store, which is located just down the road off Elm Street.

Fire officials were able get Zavala-Garcia down from the goal around 3:30 p.m.

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-Garcia has been on suicide watch since he was booked into jail.

Zavala is currently being held in the Smith Count Jail on $10-million bond.

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