San Antonio

Where is Nicholas Plaza? South Texas Crime Stories

SAN ANTONIO – It’s a 2001 case coping with lies, abuse, and a lacking 5-year-old boy in San Antonio.

Nicholas Plaza’s tragic story is one many locally have by no means forgotten.

A mom and her boyfriend have been on the heart of the investigation however it might take years for them to go to trial, as prosecutors have been compelled to strive the case with no physique.

This episode comprises particulars that will disturb some viewers. Listen to the podcast beneath, or in your favourite platforms together with Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Nicholas disappears

In the summer season of 2001, Nicholas Plaza lived a moderately regular life in San Antonio along with his mom Priscilla Ann Plaza.

Everything modified for Nicholas when his mom began courting Ruben Zavala Jr.

Eventually, Priscilla would transfer in with Zavala at his mum or dad’s dwelling.

That identical year in some unspecified time in the future throughout the starting of the varsity year, Priscilla and Zavala stopped taking Nicholas to highschool.


Priscilla’s household, particularly her mom, began to get involved about Nicholas as a result of they may by no means observe him down, even going so far as calling police and little one protecting providers to do welfare checks on him.

Priscilla’s mom was ultimately instructed that he was along with his mom and there was no proof he was in any hazard.

CPS ultimately opened an investigation and a employee went to go to the house, Zavala lied to the employees they usually have been by no means capable of make contact with Priscilla or Nicholas.

It wasn’t till November that CPS was lastly capable of make contact with Priscilla, however Nicholas was nowhere to be discovered.

Priscilla stated she was instructed by Zavala and his mom that CPS had picked him up and she or he hadn’t seen him since October.

In truth, October 23, 2001, was the final day anyone noticed Nicholas alive.

Horrific particulars floor

A lacking particular person’s report was then filed and a police investigation started and tragic particulars began to return out.


According to court docket paperwork, it was revealed that Nicholas was severely sick from being tortured and sexually abused for months.

Priscilla and Zavala each offered completely different tales of what occurred to Nicholas.

Priscilla stated Zavala would abuse her and Nicholas and wouldn’t let her take him to the physician.

Zavala instructed police that he and Priscilla have been each in charge for Nicholas’ loss of life and that he positioned the boy’s physique in a rubbish bin.

A search of the world across the rubbish bin and the landfill discovered nothing.

With no physique and solely circumstantial proof costs have been nonetheless filed in opposition to Priscilla and Zavala, each have been charged with damage to a toddler by omission.

Nicholas Plaza is one of many extra high-profile lacking youngsters instances in San Antonio. He would now be 18 years outdated. He’s been lacking since October of 2001.

third trial in Texas historical past with out a physique

At this time, this case would solely be the third case in state historical past the place there was no physique.

Priscilla would find yourself taking a plea deal in alternate for 20 years and testifying in opposition to Zavala.

Zavala’s trial came about in 2007, six years after Nicholas disappeared.


During the trial, extra disturbing particulars have been revealed. Priscilla stated throughout testimony that Nicholas’ accidents have been so unhealthy that he couldn’t stroll.

As for the protection, they put the blame on Priscilla saying that she was with him when Nicholas died and Zavala was solely serving to her.

The jury would discover Zavala responsible however throughout the punishment section, it was revealed that Ruben was on the run and accused of kidnapping.

A sample emerges

The prosecution would reveal the similarities between each instances, within the kidnapping case Zavala was courting a girl with a child. They additionally moved in with him and ultimately she would break up with him.

When he requested to fulfill up together with her to debate some points, he took off together with her son.

A voicemail was performed in court docket of Zavala threatening to kill himself and the infant if she didn’t transfer again in with him. The boy was returned however Zavala was on the run on that cost.

While the state was in search of 99 year for Zavala they got here again with a 67-year sentence, Nicholas lastly had justice.


Forensic psychologist weighs in

Erica spoke with Dr. John Delatorre, a forensic and catastrophe psychologist, about intercourse offenders and why oftentimes we see instances the place boyfriends and stepparents are those committing abuse.

“As a part of my work, I’ve assessed and treated sex offenders. I currently evaluate individuals who may be designated as a sexually violent person,” Dr. Delatorre stated. “Now, when it comes to the likelihood that someone is going to be abused and who that abuser is going to be. What we see is that more often than not, the abuser is known to the person, whether they’re an acquaintance or a family member.”

And it’s a lot easier when you can separate yourself relationship-wise when that if you think of yourself as being somehow just a tad bit distant from the person. It’s a much easier justification to then engage in that behavior,” Dr. Delatorre added. “So that’s why we probably see that it’s more likely to be someone just, you know, a boyfriend or a stepfather or something like that, that just that separation, it can in the in the offender’s mind, it can justify that the behavior is okay in their mind.”


Erica additionally requested for Dr. Delatorre to weigh in on prosecuting instances the place there is no physique.

“You know, we often hear the true-crime idiom of no body, no crime. But the truth is, is that if there’s enough circumstantial evidence and I think I think the population itself is so used to direct evidence, right, from television shows like CSI and Criminal Minds and other things like that. Audiences believe that that all trials are built on direct evidence and evidence that directly links the perpetrator or the defendant to engaging in the offending behavior. But that’s not true. Most often you’re more likely to see circumstantial evidence,” Dr. Delatorre stated.

“It seems as though that the prosecutor’s office was able to get enough of emotional testimony. They were able to get enough sort of circumstantial scientific testimony from the doctors and from family members to say that, look, Nicholas was one way before Zavala came into his life and Nicholas was completely different and now is missing after Zavala came into his life. So it’s one of those things where if you put enough circumstantial evidence out there, it can lead a jury to say, no, the defendant committed this crime beyond a reasonable doubt,” he stated.


Where are they now?

Zavala has been eligible for parole since 2015, he was just lately denied parole this March as a result of nature of his offense. His subsequent parole date is March 2024.

As for Priscilla, she’s been eligible for parole since 2009. During her final parole overview in August 2021, she was granted parole with completion of a program previous to launch.

As of the final test, she is nonetheless in that program and hasn’t been launched.

Priscilla denied KSAT 12′s request for an interview.

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