Consuelo Zavala convicted of gruesome onion-field execution
The police report said Gasca had been shot eight times, including five bullets in the head, but in the year since then, this deadly count changed. Gasca is now said to have been shot ten times -- a number that no doubt factored in to a jury's decision to convict Zavala on a first-degree murder charge. Details, photos and the original arrest affidavit below.
At about 8:30 a.m. on August 25, 1997, as we've reported, Weld County Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to an onion field in the area of Highway 66 and Weld County Road 19 in Platteville. The arrest affidavit says law enforcers tried to save Gasca, 28 -- but he was subsequently pronounced dead at the scene.
There were no shortage of witnesses working in the field, and all of them identified the shooter as Consuelo. But they also pointed to the involvement of Antonio Caudillo-Zavala, Consuelo's dad.
A number of those who spoke with investigators, including family members of Gasca, said Antonio and the victim had gotten into an altercation the previous Saturday, two days before the killing. Prosecutors with the 19th Judicial District DA's office described what happened as a fight in which Consuelo's brother was beaten up but not severely injured. They added that while Gasca watched what happened, he didn't take part in the assault.
Afterward, Antonio allegedly told Francisco, "We'll settle this in the fields." Then, the next day, Francisco is said to have been hard at work when Antonio drove up in his truck and asked him to go for a ride. Francisco declined, and none of the witnesses describe another dust-up between the men over this refusal. But that didn't mean the beef was over.
The next day, the affidavit maintains, Antonio came to work drunk, and after spotting Francisco, he told him to get a gun and defend himself. Francisco replied that he didn't need a gun for that purpose, even though witnesses said Antonio was armed. Several later talked about him holding the weapon at his side.
At that point, according to the narrative, Consuelo arrived in a truck of his own -- and seconds after dismounting, he shoved Francisco before shooting him several times from a distance of about eight feet away. But the bloodshed that resulted apparently wasn't enough. Consuelo is said to have stepped over a ditch and pumped more bullets into Francisco, until his gun was empty -- after which he reloaded, although he didn't fire again.
Not that it was necessary to spend more bullets -- not with five of them striking Gasca in the head.
Continue to read more about the Consuelo Zavala case, as well as to see an interactive graphic of the area near the crime scene and the arrest affidavit. Following the second burst of gunfire, Antonio is said to have yelled to Consuelo, "Vete! Vete!," which the report translates as "Let's leave." The pair piled into one of their trucks and split.
Just over an hour later, Antonio was located at his home. He admitted that he'd had a gun, and that he'd buried it in a chicken coop; it was subsequently recovered. He also acknowledged that Consuelo had jumped into the truck with him and he'd transported him several miles away before dropping him off. But even though he couldn't have gone far, authorities weren't able to find Consuelo.
The San Luis Port of Entry.
While Antonio eventually pleaded guilty to an accessory charge and was sentenced to three years in prison, Consuelo's whereabouts were unknown for well over a decade. But in September 2012, he tried to cross from Mexico to the United States via the San Luis Port of Entry along the Arizona border. There, a Customs and Border Protection officer flagged Zavala's ID and discovered the outstanding warrant from Weld County.
Consuelo was later extradited to Greeley, where he was jailed without bond in anticipation of a murder trial that wrapped up yesterday. The jury found him guilty of first-degree murder, and the now-36 year old was sentenced to life in prison. In a statement, 19th Judicial District DA Ken Buck said, "This conviction shows there's no time limit on justice in this senseless killing. Hopefully, justice will bring some closure to the Gasca family and the community."
Look below to check out a larger version of Zavala's mug shot, followed by an interactive graphic showing the area near where the crime took place (if you have problems seeing the image, click "View Larger Map") and the arrest affidavit.
View Larger Map
More from our Mile High Murder archive: "Ten more unsolved Denver murders: Read victims' personal stories."
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.