Kayla Gomez-Orozco disappeared, seemingly without a trace, on November 1, 2016. An Amber Alert was issued in the case, but unfortunately, it’s now turned into a murder investigation. The Tyler, Texas 10-year-old vanished from her family’s church, Bullard First Assembly Church, after an evening service. Reportedly, Kayla Gomez-Orozco had gone to wait in the lobby while her mother spoke to some fellow church-goers for just a few moments.
When her mother went to the lobby to meet up with Kayla, the 10-year-old was gone. Police were called almost immediately at about 8:00 p.m. An Amber Alert was issued the next day, and from the beginning, investigators believed that Kayla Gomez-Orozco might have been abducted.
Days went by without a sign of little Kayla, and on Friday (November 4) a substantial reward ($60,000, with $40,000 of that coming from a private donor) was offered for information leading to her recovery. On Saturday, a massive search effort was undertaken, and hundreds of volunteers showed up to help bring Kayla home. That evening, the investigation into the disappearance of Kayla Gomez-Orozco took a devastating turn when a body was found roughly three miles from where she disappeared.
Within a few hours, the remains were positively identified as belonging to Kayla, and the rescue/recovery efforts of local law enforcement became a murder investigation.
As East Texas Matters reports, the Kayla Gomez-Orozco murder investigation began in earnest early Sunday morning, soon after her remains were found. Reportedly, police located her remains based on an investigative tip. The body of Kayla Gomez-Orozco was tragically discovered in a well on a piece of property belonging to a family member. The property is located near the 22000 block of Old Jacksonville Highway, and when she was discovered, Kayla was reportedly wearing the same clothing she’d been wearing at church when she vanished.
After the discovery of the remains of Kayla Gomez-Orozco, her body was sent to Dallas to undergo an autopsy, which was scheduled to take place on Sunday, November 6.
As the investigation into the murder of Kayla Gomez-Orozco began, a family member of the 10-year-old was taken immediately into custody. Identified as 24-year-old Gustavo Zavala-Garcia of Bullard, he was initially held at the Smith County Jail on an ICE hold. Reportedly, he was in the U.S. illegally, having been deported in 2014 for committing a violent crime.
Law enforcement has described Zavala-Garcia as being an uncle of Kayla’s, but some of her family members have stated that he is a cousin, not an uncle.
On Monday morning, Gustavo Zavala-Garcia was charged with Capital Murder related to the death of Kayla Gomez-Orozco, reports CBS 19. His bond has been set at $10 million, and he has been transported back to the Smith County Jail after making a brief court appearance.
As CBS 19 also reports, disturbing new details regarding the Kayla Gomez-Orozco murder have been released today that expose how quickly Kayla was abducted from what should have been a safe space on November 1.
The newly-released details pertaining to the murder of Kayla Gomez-Orozco come from the arrest affidavit used to put Zavala-Garcia behind bars.
Reportedly, on the night little Kayla went missing, she was witnessed leaving the church with Gustavo Zavala-Garcia and his 3-year-old child. This detail was reported to law enforcement, but Zavalia-Garcia allegedly told another church member that Kayla had simply gone back into the church to wait for her mother.
According to his cell phone records, which tracked his travel from the church where Kayla Gomez-Orozco vanished back to his home, Zavala Garcia experienced a gap in his alibi. A full 17 minutes passed between the time he got to the property and the time that his wife saw him come inside the home, according to the arrest affidavit. Police think that his was when the murder suspect hid Kayla in the well.
It is unknown whether or not Kayla might have still been alive at that time.
Reportedly, the police search of Zavala-Garcia’ property on Saturday was a consensual one, and during the search, the body of Kayla Gomez-Orozco was found in a concrete well.
Reportedly, Zavala-Garcia was questioned regarding his connection to the murder of Kayla Gomez-Orozco during the course of the murder investigation. According to the affidavit, he answered “yes” when asked if he caused her death. However, he later changed his answer, according to investigators. KTRE 9 reports that Zavala-Garcia was questioned about his involvement in Kayla’s murder while taking a polygraph test.
At this point, the investigation into Kayla’s murder is still in the preliminary stages. Neither an autopsy report nor an official cause of death has yet been made public in connection with the murder of Kayla Gomez-Orozco.
[Featured Image by Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office/Gomez-Orozco Family]