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MCAO News Releases

Posted on: December 19, 2014

Cold Case Investigation Leads to Charges for 1997 Child Murder

PHOENIX – 17 years after four-year-old Crystal Reyes disappeared, Avelino Guzman Tamala (D.O.B. 6/4/1963) is in custody facing charges for her murder. His indictment marks the culmination of nearly two decades of investigation by multiple agencies and cold case detectives with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

“Thanks to the diligence of our cold case investigation team in cooperation with our law enforcement partners, we are now able to seek justice for an innocent child whose life was inexcusably and violently cut short,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “This indictment is the latest success story in our recent initiative to share our resources with law enforcement agencies throughout Maricopa County and resolve cases that have remained dormant for an extended period of time,” he added.

On December 1, 1998, the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner recovered a partial skeleton that had been discovered in a remote area near Mobile, AZ. It would take investigators until late 2014 to positively identify the remains as those of Crystal Reyes and to unravel the story of her death and disappearance. During the intervening years, a series of separate and unrelated investigations by the Phoenix Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office provided pieces of information that were ultimately used to seek an indictment against Avelino Tamala.

It was learned that Crystal was born on November 26, 1993 and lived for a period with her grandmother in Mexico. She was later brought to the U.S. and lived in a residence shared by Avelino Tamala and her biological mother, Anna Reyes. According to a witness, Crystal was physically abused while in the U.S. and forced to live in a dog kennel.

Investigators developed information indicating that Crystal was killed in April, 1997 while in the care of Tamala and her mother. She was subsequently buried in the desert near Mobile. In 2014, investigators identified Crystal’s biological father and used a sample of his DNA to positively identify her remains. Evidence gathered by multiple agencies in the years since Crystal’s death was assembled by the cold case investigation unit of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. On December 12, 2014, a Grand Jury voted to indict Avelino Tamala for first degree murder.

Later that day, officers with the U.S. Marshals Service arrested Tamala and took him into custody without incident. His next scheduled court appearance is an Initial Pretrial Conference set for February 2, 2015. Tamala is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is seeking the public’s help in locating Crystal’s mother, Anna Marlene Reyes, AKA Anna Marlene Somoza (D.O.B. 3/30/1966). Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office at 602.506.3411.

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