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Crime News Killer Relationship With Faith Jenkins

Texas Pharmacy Tech Disappears After Leaving Strange Messages Saying She Had Met A New Man

Julie Gonzalez was dreaming about her future when the young Texas mom suddenly disappeared in March of 2010, leaving her family to spend years fighting for justice. 

By Jill Sederstrom

When Julie Gonzalez and her love interest Aaron ran into each other at the store, it seemed like their timing was finally working out. 

The pair had fallen in love years earlier when they both worked at Gonzalez’s grandparents general store in Texas, but Gonzalez was only 16 years old and her family felt she was too young to get into a relationship with the 23-year-old.  

“Aaron was her sweetheart, her first love. She was hurt. She was really hurt. Julie hated me for that,” her mom Sandra Soto told Killer Relationship of forcing them apart.

But by November of 2009, when the pair had that chance run-in at the store, they were both adults and there was nothing to prevent Gonzalez — who was just ending a marriage — from dating Aaron.

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It seemed like love might finally win out, until the morning of Friday, March 26, 2010, when Gonzalez mysteriously disappeared.

“It was unlike Julie not to speak to any family members. We are constantly communicating,” Sandra told the show. “So I tried calling her all Friday. There was no answer. For me not to hear from my daughter is scary. By the next morning, we still hadn’t heard from her, so I knew something was wrong.”

Sandra called Aaron, who told her that Julie had spent the night and was at his place when he left for work Friday morning. She was planning to go pick up her daughter Layla from her soon-to-be ex-husband George DeLaCruz later that morning. 

Aaron told her he was surprised when he got a text message from Gonzalez later that day breaking up with him. It appeared that Gonzalez had fallen for another man.

“I met a man named James and I’m going to live with him in Colorado,” she cryptically wrote on MySpace. 

Her younger sister also reported receiving text messages from Gonzalez insisting she was okay. 

But there was something about the messages that didn’t sit right with her close-knit family. “The text messages were misspelled words or short words or slang and Julie never sent text messages like that,” her aunt Margarita Soto said.

They also didn’t believe that Gonzalez, a devoted young mom, would have left her daughter. 

“We were puzzled, we were stunned, we didn’t understand, but we also knew that she would never leave Layla like that. She would never walk away from her,” her aunt Dora Soto said. 

A photo of Julie Gonzalez, featured in Killer Relationship With Faith Jenkins 205

The family was even more confused after Aaron reached out and said he had discovered a hand-written note from Gonzalez left on his pillow, describing how much she loved him and talking about their future together. 

In the note, Gonzalez mentioned “the day we get married" and talked about having children. Yet just hours later, Gonzalez sent that strange break up text. 

Her family reported her missing to the Austin Police Department, but since Gonzalez was an adult and able to leave on her own, police didn’t feel there was much they could do.

Her family, however, was determined to find her. Her aunt Dora — who Gonzalez had lived with during her final years of high school — retraced the route she would have likely taken from Aaron’s apartment to DeLaCruz’s home to pick up her daughter and made a chilling discovery: Gonzalez’s car was parked at a local Walgreens, but there was no sign of the 21-year-old.

The family immediately called police and begged them to speak with DeLaCruz. 

Sgt. John Brooks, a former patrol officer with Austin Police Department, went to talk to DeLaCruz. DeLaCruz told police that on the morning Gonzalez disappeared, she had been “acting weird” and asked him to keep their daughter over the weekend because she had something she needed to do. 

“George invited me to search his house, we went inside, he’s leading me from room to room, and just, I don’t see anything that stands out as suspicious,” Brooks recalled.

Gonzalez and DeLaCruz had been high school sweethearts. After high school, Gonzalez went on to college, but soon discovered she was pregnant. She dropped out of school to get a job as a pharmacy technician and the couple got married a few years after having their daughter. 

The romance began to sour after DeLaCruz, who wasn’t working, began playing video games at all hours of the day and left the brunt of the household responsibilities to Gonzalez. By the time she disappeared, the couple had been broken up for months, but DeLaCruz had yet to sign the divorce papers.

Police told Gonzalez’s worried family that maybe the young mom would return to the Walgreens parking lot to pick up her car, so the family decided to stake out the site. 

“Sandra parked on one side and I parked on the other and we slept there until the next morning and still nothing,” Dora said. “Julie didn’t show up to get her car.”

A few months into her disappearance, the family got some help from an unexpected source. Sandra was contacted by the Dr. Phil show because they wanted to feature her daughter’s story. DeLaCruz had also agreed to participate in the filming, even agreeing to take a lie detector test. 

“He said he had nothing to hide,” Sandra recalled.

George De La Cruz Submitted an “Abandonment Report” on Julie Gonzalez

Yet, when he appeared on the show, DeLaCruz failed the lie detector test and showed signs of deception when asked whether he was responsible for Gonzalez’s disappearance and whether he caused the disappearance. “I didn’t do it. I just thought that I should have stopped her,” DeLaCruz said through tears backstage after being confronted with the results. 

Back in Austin, police saw the episode too and soon ramped up their investigation, finding there was no evidence to suggest Gonzalez had ever met a man named James or fled the area like her social media post had claimed. 

“There was just nothing to show that she was anywhere,” Det. Rogelio Sanchez said. “That’s when the case transitioned from missing person to a potential homicide case.”

Investigators looked into both men in Gonzalez’s life at the time of her disappearance. Aaron’s story appeared to check out and authorities were able to confirm that the love letter Gonzalez had left behind did match her handwriting. 

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The same couldn’t be said for DeLaCruz. Shortly after she disappeared, he was spotted at a local Walmart using her debit card. They also seized his Xbox to analyze the digital data within the computing device but it would take years to sort through all the evidence. 

By 2013, three years after Gonzalez vanished, investigators believed they finally had the evidence they needed to arrest DeLaCruz. 

They found that DeLaCruz, who was an “excessive gamer” and spent up to 18 hours a day playing games, had a mysterious 20-hour-gap in gaming sessions the day Gonzalez disappeared. 

According to wireless expert Jim Cook, that had “never occurred on any day prior to that.” 

They also learned that DeLaCruz had taken the gaming system over to a friend’s house and at the same time the gaming system was at the friend’s, Gonzalez’s cell phone was pinging from the same cell tower. The phone also appeared to be in the same location as Gonzalez during that trip to Walmart, leading investigators to conclude DeLaCruz had been the one to send those strange texts from Gonzalez’s phone in the hours after she disappeared and post that cryptic message on MySpace. 

By the spring of 2015, even without Gonzalez’s body, prosecutors believed they had enough evidence to prove a motive in the case.

“Detectives found a digital image of Julie and Aaron at the Austin Zoo on George’s cell phone,” Travis County Assistant District Attorney Monica Flores said. “We believe that once George found out that Julie was slipping away from his fingers, that she was leaving him for good, that she was moving on with another man, that he couldn’t take it and I think at that point in time he was not going to let Julie move on without him.”

DeLaCruz was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison, although he continues to maintain his innocence. 

For Gonzalez’s family, the verdict has brought some measure of closure, but will never fill the hole in their lives.

“I’m living with a broken heart,” Sandra said. “Part of me is missing and people have died of broken hearts.”