TYLER, Texas — A 27-year-old Mexican national has been sentenced to life in prison without parole in Texas after pleading guilty to capital murder in the death of a 10-year-old girl who was his cousin.
Gustavo Zavala-Garcia entered the plea Thursday in state district court in Tyler. Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putnam says the decision to seek a life sentence was made after prosecutors and defense attorneys learned Zavala-Garcia is intellectually disabled, which would disqualify him for execution.
Ten-year-old Kayla Gomez-Orozco, who was Zavala-Garcia’s cousin by marriage, was reported missing after a Nov. 1, 2016, church service near Tyler, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southeast of Dallas. Her body was found days later in the well of a house.
Prosecutors say Zavala-Garcia abducted the girl, tried to sexually assault her, struck her with a blunt object, and then asphyxiated and drowned her.