Recent arrest ties Tyler man to sexual assaults dating back 20 years
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A Tyler man has been connected to several counts of kidnapping and sexual assault starting 20 years ago.
An arrest affidavit was created on March 21 following a string of crimes which spanned almost two decades. The defendant is accused of participating in the sexual assault of three victims on three separate occasions, two of whom were abducted. The string of incidents started in 2003. These are the facts as presented in the document by the investigator; a Texas Ranger who specializes in cold cases.
On August 16, 2003, an unnamed victim was reportedly kidnapped and sexually assaulted in Tyler. Victim One, as this reporting will refer to them, provided the following report.
The attacker was a Hispanic man, 25 to 26 years old. He was tall, muscular, and had no facial hair. His hair was black and wavy, and he had thick eyebrows and brown eyes. The man spoke Spanish, but made comments which led Victim One to believe he was born in the U.S. He identified himself as “Raul,” though he later told the victim that this was not his real name.
Victim One noticed the name “Vincente” on the screen of a cell phone, which rang several times in the car throughout the incident. Victim One described the attacker’s car as a red four-door with blue interior, chrome-spoke wheels, and a Texas license plate with the number L52RRR.
No suspect was ever charged for the crime.
On December 11, 2012, an unnamed victim was reportedly kidnapped and sexually assaulted in Tyler by two attackers, who will be referred to as “the driver” and “the passenger.” Victim Two, as they will be referred to in this reporting, gave the following account.
The passenger was described as a Hispanic man in his mid 30s. He stood six-foot to six-foot-two, and was heavy built. He had a buzz cut, neatly trimmed mustache, and full cheeks. Victim Two told the passenger that she was 30, and he told her that he was younger than her.
The driver was described by Victim Two as a Hispanic man in his mid 30′s who was shorter than the passenger. He reportedly wore glasses, and had a mustache and beard. He was referred to by the passenger as “Luis.” Victim Two described the vehicle as a green Ford “access cab pickup,” with a rosary hanging from the rear-view mirror.
Again, no suspect was charged based on the victim’s report at the time.
On April 29, 2016, an unnamed victim was reportedly sexually assaulted after entering the vehicle of someone they thought they recognized. Victim Three, as this reporting will refer to them, gave the following facts about the incident.
The attacker was described as a Hispanic man around 30 years old, heavy built, with dark curly hair. Victim Three described the attackers car as a newer-model dark colored SUV with large chrome wheels, Zebra-print seat covers, and split rear doors.
Once again, no one was charged for the crime.
DNA found on the victims of the assault were collected and recorded in each case. The investigator found through Texas DPS Crime Laboratory reports that the DNA from the first attacker, the passenger in the second attack, and the third attacker all matched the DNA profile of an unidentified man. This man, based on similarities to the descriptions given by each victim, as well as past records in the Smith County legal system, was now suspected to be Vincente Rodriquez Zavaleta, 44, of Tyler; a man with a criminal record dating back to 1999.
Around the time of the attack on Victim One, Smith County Jail records listed Zavaleta as having a build and look very similar to the victim’s description. He would have been 24 at the time, and the victim had estimated the attacker to be around 25 or 26. The car described by Victim One was a red four-door car with license plate L52RRR. In 2002, Zavaleta had reported damage to his maroon, four-door, Geo Prizm with license plate L52KRR.
Around the time of the attack on Victim Two, two traffic citations were issued to Andres Zavaleta and Vincente Zavaleta in a green 2001 Chevrolet extended-cab pickup during two separate traffic stops. Their descriptions provided by the officers after the traffic stops closely matched those given of the driver and the passenger in Victim Two’s attack. Vincente Zavaleta would have been 34 at the time, and Victim Two had estimated him to be mid 30′s.
Around the time of the attack on Victim Three, Zavaleta had been reported as driving a black Lincoln Navigator in an assault case, which lines up with Victim Three’s description of a dark SUV.
As a result of Zavaleta’s closely matching history of physical appearance and vehicles, the samples of DNA from the victims were entered into the Combined DNA Index System, where it was found that Zavaleta had never been required to submit his DNA in the past, and was therefore not able to be implicated based on his own DNA.
As an act of recourse, a man suspected to be Zavaleta’s 22-year-old son was found and approached at his workplace in Smith County by the investigator on Oct. 27, 2022. He agreed to voluntarily give a sample of his DNA, which was sent in for comparison on Nov. 1.
On Jan. 26, the DPS laboratory compared the suspected sons’ DNA sample to DNA which was found on a garment worn by one of the victims. It was determined that the DNA found on the victim is more than likely that of the father of the young man, now confirmed to be Vincente Rodriquez Zavaleta.
On March 21, 19 years and seven months after his first alleged offense, Zavaleta was arrested for felony aggravated sexual assault. He is being held in the Smith County Jail on $500,000 total bonds.
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