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13-year-old Laura Ayala missing since 2002

Laura Ayala, 13, has been missing from Houston, Texas since March 10, 2002. She was last seen walking from her Houston apartment in the 7930 block of Serita Street to a local store, around 10 p.m to buy a paper for a school project. When she didn’t return Laura’s mother went to the store looking for her. An employee told her that Laura arrived at the store alone, bought a newspaper and then left. The police later found Laura’s shoes and the newspaper in a parking lot on the 2600 block off Broadway.

Witnesses stated they saw a caucasian or hispanic man in the same parking lot the night that Laura went missing. According to the Charley Project, “They also stated they saw a full-size, mid-1980s red/maroon cargo van near the store. The vehicle was two-tone and had a large-sized white or light-colored stripe painted along its center and had a gray-colored bumper.” Read more here.

In February of 2003, Laura’s disappearance was linked to three men: Walter Alexander Sorto, Edgardo Rafael Cubas, from Honduras and Eduardo Navarro. Sorto from El Salvador.

The three men were suspects in a series of rapes and murders known as the East End Murders. While investigating the east end murders, detectives found blood in a SUV that belonged to Cuba’s father. The police asked the family for DNA and the blood in the car was matched to Laura Ayala.

Sorto and Cubas were convicted of capital murder, but were never charged in the Ayala case. Navarro pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated robbery.

During an appeal the following was documented in the appeal: “The evidence at the hearing showed that appellant gave his first videotaped statement detailing his involvement in the Alvarado case to Officers Jesus Sosa and H. A. Chavez from 1:55 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on August 21st. He told Sosa and Chavez that he and Walter Sorto saw a girl talking on a pay phone, that Sorto forced her into their car, and that they drove her to a secluded location and took turns raping her, but that Sorto was the one who shot and killed her. Appellant agreed to show police where his gun was located and left with Officer Alfredo Mares and two other officers at 5:30 p.m. They went to appellant’s apartment complex and one other location, then, shortly before 7:00 p.m., the officers took appellant before a magistrate. After appellant received his statutory warnings from the magistrate, the officers took him to participate in a live lineup, bought him dinner at a fast-food restaurant, and drove him back to the Houston Police Department homicide office, where Mares interviewed him. Appellant gave a short videotaped statement to Mares at 9:33 p.m., in which he admitted his involvement in an extraneous robbery. Mares stopped the tape at 9:48 p.m. and started it again at 10:56 p.m. Appellant then confessed that he and Sorto had committed several robberies and shootings outside various “cantinas” in Houston. The interview concluded at 11:30 p.m. Officer Alan Brown then transported appellant to the City of Houston jail for the night.”

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