TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Accused murderer Gustavo Zavala-Garcia returns to a Smith County courtroom on Oct. 18 for a pretrial hearing. Zavala-Garcia was arrested and charged with capital murder of Kayla Gomez-Orozco, age 10, in November 2016.
During Thursday’s pretrial hearing experts from the Department of Public Safety’s forensic lab were expected to give another update on the status of the DNA testing.
Kristen Cossota, a forensic chemist from the DPS forensic lab, provided the update. She said during the hearing that mitochrondrial testing would need to conducted on the DNA samples from both Zavala-Garcia and Gomez-Orozco.
According to Cossota, DPS does not the ability to conduct the testing and the samples will have to be sent to a lab at the University of North Texas. DPS plans to submit ten items to UNT for testing. Cossota said the testing will take seven months and would not be completed until May.
Judge Jack Skeen said during the hearing that the court would order additional testing if he receives a joint hearing from both the state and the defense stating that it was needed.
According to prosecutors, the defense requested additional testing and because the state is seeking the death penalty in this case, they agreed.
The additional testing has pushed back the trial date for Zavala-Garcia, which was previously set for March, 2019. At this time, it appears the trial will not begin until sometime in May.
KLTV’s Brionna Rivers was in the courtroom providing live updates of the hearing: