Consuelo Zavala extradicted in eight-gunshot kill of onion-field worker
Big photos below.
Had 35-year-old Consuela Zavala crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in the fifteen years since he was accused of brutally gunning down a man in a Weld County onion field? No one's saying right now. But his attempt to enter Arizona last month triggered a Colorado arrest warrant that led to Zavala's arrest and extradition to Greeley this week for a crime of uncommon brutality: The victim, Francisco Gasca, was shot eight times. Get the details below.
At about 8:30 a.m. on August 25, 1997, according to the arrest affidavit shared in its entirety here, Weld County Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to an onion field in the area of Highway 66 and Weld County Road 19 in Platteville. There, 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. At that point, 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. The coroner later said Francisco had been hit five times in the head and three more in the torso.
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 admitted 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's whereabouts.
The San Luis Port of Entry.
Cut to September 2012, when Zavala, reportedly a U.S. citizen, tried to return to the states via the San Luis Port of Entry along the Mexico-Arizona border. There, a Customs and Border Protection officer flagged Zavala's ID and discovered the outstanding warrant from Weld County.
Zavala is now back in Greeley, where he was jailed without bond. Thus far, local authorities haven't released a booking photo, with Weld County District Attorney's Office spokesman Heath Montgomery saying it's being temporarily withheld for investigative reasons.
However, Consuelo was due in court this morning on a single charge of first-degree murder. Look below to see 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 This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.