Investigations by law enforcement officials into the kidnapping and murder of a 10-year-old Tyler schoolgirl continue, but a warrant affidavit filed against the suspect provides a clearer timeline of events.
According to a warrant affidavit filed with 241st State District Judge Jack Skeen of Tyler, inconsistencies in the suspect's statements to law enforcement officers, along with cell phone records, video surveillance and subsequent confession revealed “sufficient probable cause” that Gustavo Zavala-Garcia “intentionally caused the death” of Kayla Gomez-Orozco.
Zavala-Garcia, a 24-year-old Mexican national residing in Bullard who is related by marriage to Gomez-Orozco, is being held in the Smith County Jail on a $10 million bond.
The affidavit states that the murder was committed on or about Nov. 1 in Smith County, after she was taken from the Bullard First Assembly of God, just inside Cherokee County, only a few miles away from where her body was discovered Nov. 6 inside a well on property next to where Zavala-Garcia lived.
A timeline was constructed based on witness accounts, evidence located at Zavala-Garcia's place and his cell phone records.
Investigators believe he took Gomez-Orozco in his vehicle as he left the church Nov. 1, and sometime between the time he arrived home and the time when his wife told law enforcement agents he entered their residence “is when (the) suspected party concealed the victim in the well,” the affidavit states.
Cell phone records also revealed that Zavala-Garcia contacted his employer by cell phone that evening, “requesting to borrow one of the business vehicles to assist with the search” for the girl after his wife told him she was missing from the church, the affidavit added.
Although the employer did not answer the call, he text messaged Zavala-Garcia the next morning, Nov. 2, “asking what was needed,” according to the affidavit, which added that his employer was not aware if a company vehicle was used.
However, footage from a local convenience store surveillance camera shows Zavala-Garcia and his wife on Nov. 1 at the gas pump in one of the company trucks and places them inside the store between 8:12 p.m. and 8:18 p.m., the affidavit noted.
It also stated that during a polygraph exam, Zavala-Garcia “answered 'yes' to questions regarding causing the death of the victim” but then recanted his answer.
For now, officials on both sides of the Cherokee-Smith county line continue to collect information.
“We're getting all these reports, trying to close out (the case), but there is a lot of paper work over this, which we are going to turn over to the Smith County D.A. when the time comes,” said Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell. “They can use (information about the kidnapping) to enhance the case. They're going to get it (information) all together, but they still have some scenes in Smith County that they're looking at, and they're talking to people.”
A nationwide Amber Alert was issued when Gomez-Orozco was discovered missing, and agents from the Dallas FBI office coordinated a Nov. 5 search manned by volunteers, of which nearly 700 showed.
Funeral services were held Nov. 9 in Tyler for Gomez-Orozco, who was laid to rest in Tyler's Rose Lawn Cemetery.
Meanwhile, donations are being accepted in her memory in a “Kayla’s Fund” account at First Bank & Trust East Texas, as well as online at “Help Find Kayla Gomez Fundraiser” at www.youcaring.com.