HOUSTON — The investigation into the gruesome, violent killing of a 33-year-old woman at her southwest Houston home has lead to an arrest. The Houston Police Department had quickly dismissed the victim’s incarcerated husband as a suspect in the murder and have turned their full attention to the victim’s brother-in-law.
Moises Ayala is charged with capital murder in the slaying of Zuleika Hernandez. Prosecutors said the suspect was enraged after learning the victim played a part in his brother’s arrest on March 25 and subsequent jailing.
In court, a judge ruled there will be no bond.
Relatives found Hernandez in the bathroom of her residence in the 6600 block of Sherwood Drive near Alerta Street around 2 a.m. on April 24. Detectives said the family had to jump over the home’s padlocked fence in order to reach the victim. Prosecutors said based on the level of decomposition, the victim had been dead for about three days.
“There’s clearly a lot of disruption. It’s a very violent scene,” Det. Fil Waters said. “Our victim was fighting, was trying to survive whatever attack that was upon her.”
In what detectives described as a “personal type of attack,” investigators found disturbing amounts of blood in multiple rooms of the house. Officers said it’s difficult to determine whether the victim was stabbed, shot or beaten at this point.
Investigators said Ayala went to the house on April 21 with intentions of killing Hernandez as payback for what happened to his brother. Ayala is also accused of stealing his brother’s belongings to later sell the items, prosecutors said. Officers reported several items were missing from home including a compressor, a generator, several tires, a lawn mower, nail guns, a television, a laptop and a white 1999 Ford F-150.
Hernandez was last seen the night of April 21 after driving up to the house in a black SUV between 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Police said a witnesses also saw the pickup truck sitting in the driveway on the south side of the residence. The victim was allegedly seen trying to get her dogs back into the yard before going inside the home.
Investigators said a witness saw Ayala at the house. In court, prosecutors said one resident reported hearing the sound of a heavy object being loaded onto the truck’s bed. About 20 to 25 minutes later, prosecutors said the witness saw the truck racing down the street.
Police said the back door of the home was left open, suggesting the alleged killer escaped through the backyard of the house. The three dogs that live in the yard did not respond, Waters said it is possible the suspected attacker knew the victim.
The victim lived at the home with her husband and his two brothers, according to court documents. During a prison interview, the victim’s husband said his brothers were the only other people with access to the padlocks and knowledge of the equipment. The couple’s dogs were also familiar with the suspect, prosecutors said.
The police department has also found the truck. A business decal on the right rear end of the car reads: “Antonio Ayala Roofing.” The vehicle has damage to the hood and a large sticker on the rear window resembling an El Salvador flag with the numbers “503” on it.
The Houston Police Department released a similar image of the flag.