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COTULLA TRIAL RELOCATED
A Frio County jury decided Thursday, March 9, that Cotulla native Henry Gilbert Ayala Jr. will serve twenty years in prison for the sexual assault of a 13-year-old child.
The case was prosecuted over a four-day period last week by the 81st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, represented in court by Assistant DA Leslie Carranza. The district attorney has noted that the trial had been moved from La Salle to Frio County after court officials were unable to select a jury last year.
DA Audrey Louis said juror turnout after a summons was “incredibly low,” which prompted her office to seek trial relocation.
Ayala, 37, was sentenced within hours of the guilty verdict Thursday. Judge Jennifer Dillingham presided over the case.
Prosecutors alleged in the trial that Ayala assaulted the young girl who was living in his home during 2018 and that the offense occurred more than once.
“We are extremely proud of our victim, who courageously testified against the defendant,” DA Louis said after the sentence was handed down. “Because of her courage, no other child will suffer abuse from this defendant while he is incarcerated.”
Among the agencies involved in gathering evidence for the case against Ayala were Texas Ranger Lt. Randy Garcia and La Salle County Sheriff’s Lt. Homar Olivarez and investigator Esmeralda Gonzalez, as well as the Children’s Alliance of South Texas, an advocacy center with offices in Cotulla where counselors and investigators conduct forensic interviews.
The case report indicates the child reported the assault to a family member who then notified law enforcement officers, thereby initiating an investigation into the crime.
Ayala will be required to serve a minimum of half his prison sentence before he is eligible for parole.