HARRIS COUNTY (Covering Katy News) - Three men are in jail without bail after being charged with capital murder in the death of a Katy area man whose body was found in Grimes County. A fourth man has been charged with tampering with evidence for allegedly burying the victim’s body.
“This is a heartbreaking case in which a young man was violently killed in the prime of his life, and we will seek justice for him and his family,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. “Because these defendants face the possibility of life in prison or even the death penalty, we are working to see that they are held behind bars until their trial.”
Murder suspects may face death penalty
Jose Varela, 21, Austin Michael Walker, 21, and Eric Cecilio Aguilar, 22, are facing the possibility of life in prison without parole or even the death penalty. The decision whether or not to seek the death penalty in capital murder cases is generally made months after an arrest.
In addition to filing motions to hold these defendants without bail, prosecutors with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office also filed a motion to keep the men separate while awaiting trial, so they would never be in the same jail cell and will not be taken to court together.
The victim, Zulyr Kaleem, 21, was reported missing on April 28, 2019. He was last seen two days earlier while leaving a fitness center in the 9900 block of Fry Road in Cypress at about 7:45 p.m.
Motive for murder
During the course of an extensive investigation, investigators developed evidence that Kaleem was killed during the course of a drug deal and his body was disposed of at an unknown location, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Almost a year later, on April 25, 2020, Varela and Walker were arrested and charged with capital murder. Three days later, Aguilar was also arrested on a capital murder charge.
“It’s a tragedy that a 21-year-old lost his life in a horrific way,” said Assistant District Attorney Tiffany Dupree, the prosecutor handling the case. “Capital murder is the most serious offense that we have, and we will seek justice in this case.”
During the investigation, Harris County Sheriff's Office deputies, Texas Rangers, and deputies with the Grimes County Sheriff's Office were led to a residence located in the 8200 block of Loblolly in Grimes County, Texas.
Gannon Gotlieb, 23, who lived at that address, admitted to burying Kaleem’s body on the property, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Gotlieb was charged with tampering with evidence and booked into the Grimes County Jail.