DA to pursue death penalty against Zavala-Garcia

Published on Friday, 21 April 2017 01:46 - Written by EMILY GUEVARA, eguevara@tylerpaper.com

The Smith County District Attorney’s Office will seek the death penalty in its case against Gustavo Zavala-Garcia, the man accused of killing 10-year-old Kayla Gomez-Orozco in November.

The DA’s office filed its notice of intent to seek the death penalty on Wednesday morning with the 241st District Court, according to a copy of the document. The prosecution had until 1:30 p.m. Thursday to inform the court of its decision.

Zavala-Garcia, 24, is charged with capital murder in Kayla’s death. Kayla’s body was found Nov. 5, four days after she went missing, in a well on the property where Zavala-Garcia lived in the 22100 block of Farm-to-Market Road 2493 (Old Jacksonville Highway) in Bullard.

Zavala-Garcia, who was related to Kayla by marriage, was reportedly among the last people to see her before she went missing from the foyer of Bullard First Assembly on U.S. Highway 69.

In the indictment of Zavala-Garcia, prosecutors contend he attacked Kayla and sexually assaulted or attempted to sexually assault her after her kidnapping.

Prosecutors also contend he struck Kayla with and against a blunt object, asphyxiated her and drowned her.

It is unclear what exactly caused her death, and at the time the indictment was released, Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham declined to comment - citing the restrictive and protective order.

The next significant date is April 27, when a pre-trial hearing is scheduled. That is the first of seven pre-trial hearings scheduled through September.

During the hearings, the court could consider any motions filed by the prosecution or defense.

These could include motions to exclude evidence, for change of venue or notice of intent to plead insanity.

Qualification of the venire panel and the court’s voir dire is scheduled for Aug. 17. Individual voir dire is scheduled to begin Aug. 22. The docket call and trial is scheduled for Oct. 2.