The March 2018 trial for the man accused of killing 10-year-old Kayla Gomez-Orozco has been postponed because of delays in DNA testing.
The updated schedule for the capital murder trial of Gustavo Zavala-Garcia, 26, calls for the court to summon a central jury panel for Aug. 30; start individual questioning of each potential juror on Sept. 10; and hold the docket call and trial starting Oct. 8.
The postponment in the trial came after 241st District Court Judge Jack Skeen on Thursday granted a motion for continuance made by Zavala-Garcia’s defense attorneys.
The reason for the request is because the state is not expected to receive results of DNA testing in the case until the end of January.
At that point, the state would provide the results to the defense attorneys, who would then need to review them and decide if they want to have their own testing completed.
Given those circumstances, “there is no way that the court can keep the case on the present schedule,” Skeen said during a pretrial hearing.
In determining the new schedule, the court considered two factors. The first is that Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham and First Assistant District Attorney April Sikes are scheduled to prosecute another capital murder case in a different district court, the 114th, in June.
Sikes asked that Skeen set the Zavala-Garcia jury selection and trial date for after that other case, which could last about six weeks for the full trial and possible punishment hearing.
Sikes also requested the court summon the central jury panel for the Zavala-Garcia case after students are back in school because turnout likely would be better at that time.
Skeen agreed to Sikes’ requests and granted the suggested dates for jury selection and trial agreed upon by the state and the defense. Skeen said he believes they would have no problem meeting the updated schedule.
Zavala-Garcia is accused of killing Kayla in November 2016. He was related to her by marriage and was among the last people to see her before she went missing Nov. 1, 2016, from the foyer of Bullard First Assembly on U.S. Highway 69.
Her body was found four days later 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.
It is unclear what exactly caused her death, and at the time the indictment was released, Bingham declined to comment, citing the restrictive and protective order in the case.
In the indictment, prosecutors contend Zavala-Garcia 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.