After missing persons billboards, a benefit concert and emotional pleas on TV talk shows followed the 2010 disappearance of a 21-year-old mother, a murder charge has been filed in the case.
A Travis County grand jury indicted George De La Cruz on Friday, more than three years after his estranged wife, Julie Ann Gonzalez, was last seen.
De La Cruz, 25, was booked in the Travis County Jail around 3 p.m. Friday with bail set at $500,000.
Efforts to reach an attorney for De La Cruz were unsuccessful, and Gonzalez’s mother and grandfather declined to comment on the indictment. The family’s efforts to find Gonzalez have included plastering a picture of her face on billboards, posters and fliers, appearing on CNN, hiring a private investigator and hosting a benefit concert.
A family friend said they’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. But he cautioned that it’s not over yet because “Julie’s not home.”
Assistant District Attorney Gary Cobb said Friday that, after tracking down every lead, officials determined that Gonzalez is no longer alive, but that they do not know where her body is. Cobb said he couldn’t discuss specifics about the investigation because the case is pending.
Police initially thought that Gonzalez disappeared voluntarily because family and friends received text messages sent from her cell phone. However, her family did not believe that Gonzalez was the one sending the information or posting updates to social media websites.
Affidavits from May 2010 show that detectives suspected that De La Cruz had killed Gonzalez. Publicly, police said he was a person of interest in the case.
Family members have said that Gonzalez and De La Cruz had a volatile relationship and that she wanted to end the marriage but that he did not.
According to police search warrant affidavits, De La Cruz and Gonzalez separated in November 2009 and were in the process of getting a divorce when she visited his house in South Austin on March 26, 2010, to pick up their 2-year-old daughter. They shared custody of the girl, and she had spent the previous few days at her father’s house.
De La Cruz said that Gonzalez had asked him to take care of their daughter for a few more days because she was leaving town and that he agreed, according to the documents. He told police she left about 11 a.m., that he did not know where she was going and that he had had no further contact with her.
The next day, Gonzalez’s aunt reported her missing. On March 28, her car was found in a Walgreens parking lot in South Austin near De La Cruz’s home.
The affidavits also show that detectives learned that on the afternoon of March 26, purchases were made with Gonzalez’s debit card at a local Wal-Mart. Photos taken from a bank inside the store appear to show De La Cruz pushing his daughter in a shopping cart around the same time, the documents say, and items purchased with the card were recovered at his home.
De La Cruz has repeatedly denied that he had anything to do with Gonzalez’s disappearance, including during an appearance her family made on the “Dr. Phil” TV show to draw attention to her case.
“I didn’t do nothing,” he said on the segment, crying. “I don’t know where she is.”