TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The man accused of murdering a 10-year-old girl in Bullard back in 2016 has plead guilty to the crime, and will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Gustavo Zavala-Garcia, 27, of Bullard, was in the 241st District Court Thursday morning to enter a guilty plea for the death of his niece, Kayla Gomez.
The Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman pushed to not seek the penalty, due to new Supreme Court recommendations that he says would have made it difficult to get capital punishment.
“Let me be clear, I do not believe that the standard set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court results in justice for Kayla’s family or our community.”Jacob Putman, District Attorney
Zavala-Garcia has also waived his right to an appeal. Kayla’s family chose not to give a victim impact statement.
Kayla went missing from Bullard First Assembly Church back on November 1, 2016 and was found on November 5, just a few miles away in a well.
A court indictment revealed that a grand jury believes there is probable cause that he may have sexually assaulted Kayla before her death.
Zavala-Garcia has had his trial delayed five times, mostly due to allow for further DNA testing.
Investigators determined that Zavala-Garcia was in the country illegally at the time of the killing and he was awaiting a court date in the immigration case.
The case has received widespread media attention and his lawyers earlier this year filed a motion to move the location of the trial.
They argued that most East Texans have heard about the case and have already determined Zavala-Garcia’s guilt.
The FBI was able to track cellphone data from his phone to determine Zavala’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 put Kayla in his well outside the home, according to the affidavit.
During a polygraph test, the suspect allegedly admitted to causing Kayla’s death, but he then recanted his answer.