A woman identified by law enforcement as Guadalupe Zavala Lopez walks into a gas station where an infant was later found dead in the bathroom. (Houston Police Department)
A woman has been arrested in connection with a newborn baby girl who was left and found dead inside a gas station toilet earlier this year, authorities in the Lone Star State announced late Wednesday.
Guadalupe Zavala Lopez, 25, currently stands accused of one felony count of tampering with evidence – human corpse, according to the Houston Police Department. Additional charges may be in the offing.
The defendant was arrested on Tuesday at a bus station in Brownsville, the largest city in the U.S. portion of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, according to a press release issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, whose agents made the arrest.
Federal authorities described Zavala Lopez as a Mexican national and “migrant who overstayed her visitor visa and was successfully taken into custody.” The CBP press release goes on to describe her as “a homicide suspect attempting to flee to Mexico,” however, homicide charges have not been filed in Houston as of this writing.
A spokesperson for the HPD told Law&Crime that the agency will “likely interview her again to get more details” and stressed that the only charge was the one count of evidence tampering noted on the Twitter account – but that the investigation is currently ongoing.
“We still have to speak with her,” an HPD public information officer said. “Beyond that it depends on the rest of the investigation.”
What’s known so far is both sad and grim.
On April 2, a customer went to use the restroom at a Shell station in southwest Houston in the middle of the night. There, they found the child inside the toilet. Houston Fire Department paramedics determined the girl had been dead for over an hour by that time.
On Monday, the HPD posted footage on YouTube they claim shows a “person of interest, believed to be the infant’s mother,” entering the Shell station and then leaving in a white Cadillac.
“We really don’t know what the circumstances are or who she is in relation to the infant,” a public information officer previously told Law&Crime.
In the footage, which skips around and appears to be edited, the woman can be seen getting out of her car – which is parked at one of the pumps – and then walking through the front door of the filling station. The camera zooms in on her face as she enters the store. The footage then cuts to the same woman getting back in the car and driving away into the night. Finally, the video ends with three different still images of the wanted woman, taken from when she entered.
During a press conference announcing the efforts to obtain the public’s help in the case by releasing the video, HPD Homicide Detective Calab Bowling said the woman on the video was in the gas station for roughly 15 minutes before she left.
“No one else went inside that bathroom, and [the newborn] was not there when she walked in before,” Browning said, clarifying later that witness statements also supported that understanding of events. “It appears that she gave birth in the restroom.”
A determination regarding the child’s cause of death is still pending with the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.
In an email, the CBP said they could not comment on the case or arrest beyond what was already in the press release.
“Agents are actively collaborating with other federal agencies and the Houston, Texas Police Department to have the suspect extradited to Harris County in connection to an on-going homicide investigation,” the federal press release continues.
Zavala Lopez was not booked into the Harris County Jail as of Thursday afternoon.
“We have no information on extradition for Ms. Lopez,” the Harris County Sheriff’s Office told Law&Crime on Thursday.
According to the HPD, the defendant’s eventual booking photo, along with any additional potential charges, will be posted on social media.
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