Recent arrest ties Tyler man to sexual assaults dating back 20 years

TYLER (KLTV) – Tyler man is linked to multiple counts of kidnapping, sexual assault and other crimes that began 20 years ago.

Following a string crime that had been going on for almost two decades, a warrant was issued for arrest. Three victims were allegedly sexually assaulted on three different occasions by the defendant, two of which were abducted. The string of incidents began in 2003. These are the facts as stated by the investigator, a Texas Ranger who is skilled in cold cases.

Incident One

Unnamed victims were allegedly kidnapped, raped and assaulted in Tyler on August 16, 2003. The following report was provided by Victim One (as they will be called in this reporting).

The attacker was a Hispanic male, aged between 25 and 26 years. He was muscular and tall. His black hair was curly and his brown eyes were deep. Victim One believed that he was American born, despite his Spanish-speaking accent. He identified himself as “Raul,” though he later told the victim that this was not his real name.

Victim One noticed the name “Vincente” on the screen of a cell phone, which rang several times in the car throughout the incident. Victim One described the attacker’s car as a red four-door with blue interior, chrome-spoke wheels, and a Texas license plate with the number L52RRR.

The crime was never committed and no suspect was ever arrested.

Incident Two

On December 11, 2012, an unnamed victim was reportedly kidnapped and sexually assaulted in Tyler by two attackers, who will be referred to as “the driver” and “the passenger.” Victim Two, as they will be referred to in this reporting, gave the following account.

According to his description, the passenger was a Hispanic male in his mid-30s. He was six-foot tall to six-foot two and heavy built. His mustache was neatly trimmed and he had full cheeks. Victim Two said to the passenger that she was 30 years old, and he replied that he was much younger than her.

The driver was described by Victim Two as a Hispanic man in his mid 30′s who was shorter than the passenger. Victim Two said that he wore glasses and had a mustache, beard, and wore glasses. He was referred to by the passenger as “Luis.” Victim Two described the vehicle as a green Ford “access cab pickup,” with a rosary hanging from the rear-view mirror.

Again, no suspect was charged based on the victim’s report at the time.

Incident Three

An unnamed victim was sexually assaulted by a man they thought they recognised after she entered the car of another person on April 29, 2016. The following information is provided by Victim Three (as this report will refer to them).

The attacker was described by Victim Three as a Hispanic male, aged between 30 and 35 years, of medium build, dark curly hair, and heavy build. Victim Three described the attacker’s car as a dark-colored, newer model SUV with large chrome tires, Zebra print seat covers and split rear doors.

The crime was not charged again.

The Suspect

The DNA of each victim was collected and recorded. Texas DPS Crime Laboratory reports revealed that the DNA of the first attacker, the second attacker, and the third attacker all matches the profile for an unidentified man. Based on similarities in victim descriptions, past Smith County records, and DNA profiles, this man was now believed to be Vincente Rodriquez Zavaleta 44 years old, Tyler. He has a criminal history dating back to 1999.


Around the time of the attack on Victim One, Smith County Jail records listed Zavaleta as having a build and look very similar to the victim’s description. The victim thought that Zavaleta was between 25 and 26 years old at the time. Victim One described a red four door car with license plate number L52RRR. Zavaleta reported that his four-door Geo Prizm, maroon and four-door, had suffered damage in 2002.

Two traffic citations were issued at the time of Victim Two’s attack to Andres Zavaleta (in a 2001 Chevrolet extended-cab pickup) during separate traffic stops. Their descriptions provided by the officers after the traffic stops closely matched those given of the driver and the passenger in Victim Two’s attack. Vincente Zavaleta would have been 34 at the time, and Victim Two had estimated him to be mid 30′s.

Around the time of the attack on Victim Three, Zavaleta had been reported as driving a black Lincoln Navigator in an assault case, which lines up with Victim Three’s description of a dark SUV.

As a result of Zavaleta’s closely matching history of physical appearance and vehicles, the samples of DNA from the victims were entered into the Combined DNA Index System, where it was found that Zavaleta had never been required to submit his DNA in the past, and was therefore not able to be implicated based on his own DNA.

As an act of recourse, a man suspected to be Zavaleta’s 22-year-old son was found and approached at his workplace in Smith County by the investigator on Oct. 27, 2022. The investigator obtained a sample from his DNA and sent it to him for comparison on Nov. 1.

On Jan. 26, the DPS laboratory compared the suspected sons’ DNA sample to DNA which was found on a garment worn by one of the victims. It was found that the victim’s DNA is more likely to be that of Vincente Rodriquez Zavaleta, the father of the young boy.

Zavaleta was charged with felony aggravated sex assault on March 21, 2019, 19 years and seven month after his first offense. He is currently in Smith County Jail, where he is being held on $500,000 total bail.

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