Cecilia Huerta Gallegos: Remembering Her Life and Seeking Justice ~ with Mireya Lopez
By Jasmine Castillo, Host of Hands Off My Podcast
Empower the Vulnerable and Make Them Heard. No Longer Voiceless. No Longer Forgotten.
When a husband reports an ongoing domestic assault, authorities quickly respond to the call. However, upon arrival, there is no sign of the alleged female perpetrator, Cecilia Huerta Gallegos. Cecilia never left the home after entering her master bedroom.
Where are you Cecilia Gallegos? This is your story…..
"Should I ever go missing, please look
for me and know that my
husband did something to me!* - Cecilia
I had to honor of speaking with Mireya Lopez, Cecilia’s sister. We discuss her story, for she is still a missing person, and Mireya’s goal is to raise awareness about her disappearance.
Who is Cecilia Urena Huerta Gallegos
Cecilia Urena Huerta Gallegos, born November 17, 1988, was the fifth of seven children; her parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic to Houston, Texas where she and her siblings were born and raised. Cecilia’s siblings recall that as a child, Cecilia often nursed injured animals back to health. “She cared for every animal, even if it was a rat,” Margie Lopez recalled. “She wanted to save every animal.” This compassion followed her into adulthood. Cecilia was known as a doting mother and a compassionate nursing assistant who cared greatly for the elderly residents in her care. Her sisters describe her as a great human being with a beautiful personality, "Sweet, feisty, loud. She was known," said Cecilia’s sister, Margie Lopez. Cecilia was considered an exemplary worker by her colleagues, supervisors, and patients alike, and she inspired those around her. Cecilia always went above and beyond what was required of her, and she is deeply missed by all.
Cecilia resided with her family in Houston, Texas until 2012. She began her journey as a mother at a young age by giving birth to two children with George Spezzia, who was younger than her by three years. Cecilia and the children lived in her grandmother's house until she moved to San Antonio, Texas in 2012. Her ex-partner, George Spezzia, received a seven-year jail term for the crime of "Burglary of Habitation" around the same time. According to Mireya Lopez, Cecilia decided to start fresh and forge ahead with her life.
Burglary of habitation is a specific type of burglary that occurs when someone enters a home or other building with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or an assault. In Texas, burglary of habitation is a second-degree felony, which means that it is punishable by a prison sentence of 2-20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Cecilia moved to San Antonio with her two children where she worked as a cashier at a local gas station. It was here that she met the man who would later be charged with her murder, Reyes Huerta Gallegos. They were legally married on February 26, 2013 and executed their marriage license on March 1 of the same year. The couple purchased their new home located at 5622 Southwick Street in San Antonio just a year after they wed, signing the deed on March 6, 2014. Sadly, this is also the last place anyone saw Cecilia.
The couple welcomed two more children into the family, and Cecilia stopped working at the gas station to stay home with the four children shortly after they were married. Cecilia began studying for a professional certification in the health care field during this time, and she became a certified nursing assistant in December of 2016. She then started working at St. Francis Nursing Home in July of 2017 as a full-time aid. Cecilia was a cherished employee who was described as “very reliable”, and her patients loved her. She worked her full 40 hours on weekends, staying home during the week.
Unfortunately, while Cecilia’s occupational dreams were coming true, her husband’s behavior became increasingly more possessive. Friends said that Cecilia had a curfew, and that her husband checked on her regularly at work and at school when she was taking classes. According to Police and Bexar County court records, Reyes Huerta Gallegos assaulted one of Cecilia’s coworkers at the nursing home on June 22, 2019; he punched the male coworker in the face after showing up at the facility during Cecilia’s shift. However, the trial was waived on January 13, 2020 when witnesses failed to appear in court; the victim’s name was Jeffery Pardo. Investigators say Cecilia tried to end the relationship with her husband that day, to which he responded by pulling a gun, according to an affidavit. Cecilia was worried for her safety. Reyes didn’t allow anyone to visit the home, even putting a lock on the gate to keep people out, according to neighbors. Cecilia’s sister said that Cecilia had put up money for a house and an alarm system for her and the children’s safety. Sadly, Cecilia would disappear before this plan could be carried out.
The night of Cecilia’s Disappearance
Cecilia was seen for the last time on July 7, 2019. Her long shift at the nursing home was scheduled to end at 11:00 pm, however, she would end up leaving around 7:20 pm after an unexpected visit from Reyes Huerta Gallegos during her shift. Reyes approached Cecilia around 6:40, and she appeared to be very uncomfortable. During the encounter, captured on the facility’s security camera, Reyes came very close to Cecilia, causing her to back up into the wall. (Cecilia's family has the video footage of this encounter from the nursing home, but they will not publish it until after the court has used it as evidence.) After Reyes left the facility, Cecilia approached the head nurse; asking to leave early, Cecilia explained that she needed to go home to check on her children. According to sister Mireya Lopez, Cecilia also called her younger brother Justin Disla, “She told him that she feared something was going to happen, that she needed to go home and watch her kids.”
Cecilia arrived home from work at 7:39 pm, according to records, entering the master bedroom that she shared with Reyes Huerta Gallegos less than 15 minutes later at 7:53 pm. This is the last time Cecilia was ever seen. According to police, Reyes can be seen in surveillance footage keeping his two biological children and two step-children — who were 6, 7, 12 and 14 — away from the master bedroom. The children, forced to go into their bedrooms, heard an argument take place. One of the children told Mireya Lopez that after being forced into her bedroom, she [the child] heard screaming and that she covered her ears up to block out the noise. The children remained in their rooms for the rest of the night, and Cecilia was never seen again.
At 2:08 am, the home’s surveillance cameras experienced a period of blackout that lasted until 3:44 am. During this time, Reyes Huerta Gallegos was observed moving around the house and going in and out of the master bedroom. He made multiple trips to and from his bedroom to the family's white Chevy Tahoe, leaving the residence on four separate occasions. While three of these trips were relatively short--lasting between 2-11 minutes--his fourth trip spanned over two hours. At precisely 6:27 am, Reyes was seen driving away from the residence in a white Tahoe. Upon returning at 8:48 am, he began unloading equipment including a chainsaw, two shovels, contractor duty trash bags, and cleaning supplies with his shirt soaked in sweat; after which he proceeded to take a shower before contacting local police to report an incident of cutting in progress.
Upon arriving at the residence, San Antonio police found that Cecilia was not present. However, they did observe visible injuries to Reyes's face, a scratch mark on his chest and a superficial cut on his index finger which was consistent with fingernail marks. According to Reyes, he had been involved in an argument with Cecilia 30 minutes prior, during which she allegedly cut him with a knife. The couple had been arguing about possible infidelity and the situation escalated into physical violence. Following the alleged assault, Cecilia reportedly left the home stating that she intended to leave their family and disappeared in a car driven by an unknown man who had been waiting outside. Despite her sudden disappearance, Reyes Huerta Gallegos did not report her missing and claimed that he had no knowledge of her whereabouts.
Investigation on Cecilia's Disappearance
Cecilia’s siblings, all of whom live in Houston, became very concerned when they had not heard from Cecilia for several days after that last ominous phone call with her brother, Justin Disla. It was very unlike Cecilia to cease communication with her family, especially her children. Decisively, after three days of eerie silence from Cecilia, Justin Disla called the San Antonio Police Department, asking them to complete a welfare check on Cecilia; when the officers informed Justin that Cecilia couldn’t be found to complete the welfare check, he filed a missing person’s report. Upon filing this report, San Antonio police informed Cecilia’s siblings of the 911 call made by Reyes Huerta Gallegos on July 8. Her siblings became even more concerned and suspicious after hearing the content of the report; they knew Cecilia would never voluntarily leave her children. She didn’t take a vehicle, clothes, or money, and there has been no activity on her cellphone or credit cards. Police would soon find that Cecilia could not have fulfilled the actions described by Reyes in his initial report.
As per Greg Rozmiarek, a representative of St. Francis, Cecilia's absence on July 14th was highly unusual and concerning since she had never missed a shift before. Later that day, Cecilia's siblings, Mireya and Margie Lopez contacted Search & Support San Antonio via Facebook after learning about their efforts in the search for Andreen McDonald, another local mother whose remains were discovered on July 11th, 2019. (Andreen's spouse was found guilty of manslaughter in February of 2023 with respect to her demise).
Nina Brooks, the founder of Search & Support San Antonio, wasted no time in alerting and coordinating with volunteers on Cecilia's case. One such volunteer was Robert Green from Chain Breakers, who offered invaluable expertise in the search for missing persons. The next day, July 15th at 2:22 PM, Brooks and Green worked with another volunteer from Chain Breakers to check on Cecilia at her family home. When there was no answer at the door, they contacted SAPD to perform a wellness check on Cecilia. Upon arriving at the Gallegos home and sharing what they knew about the case with law enforcement officials, Reyes Gallegos arrived back at the home. He allowed two deputies into the house while neighbors also spoke with volunteers outside about their observations but had not seen Cecilia themselves. Although unsettling circumstances surrounded Cecilia's disappearance--including an unusual visit from Reyes to Cecilia's workplace--dedicated professionals such as Brooks and Green will continue working tirelessly until she is found.
On July 15, 2019, the San Antonio Police Department obtained a search warrant for the Gallegos residence after visiting and interviewing witnesses. The warrant granted them access to the property's video surveillance system, which had both interior and exterior views of the house. The footage was unsettling as it contradicted Reyes Gallegos' account from July 8. It showed that Cecilia was not visible during the alleged assault, and she was never seen leaving the house or the master bedroom after entering at 7:53 pm on July 7. Detective Alicia O'Brien stated in an affidavit that the suspect's statement did not match what they saw in the video. There was no evidence of a struggle, and Cecilia did not leave the house. Before her disappearance, Cecilia had expressed concerns about her safety and instructed her friend and sister to contact the police if anything happened. Child Protective Services removed the children from Reyes Huerta Gallegos' custody and placed them with Margie Lopez due to the suspicious circumstances surrounding Cecilia's disappearance.
Where the case stands today
Search & Support San Antonio has organized countless searches for Cecilia; family, friends, and volunteers have searched overgrown culverts, ditches, fields, and parks near her home —but Cecilia’s body has never been found.
Reyes Huerta Gallegos was arrested for his [June 22nd] assault on Cecilia's coworker on August 13, 2019 and was released the next day on a $1,000 bond. However, the case was dismissed and the trial was waived due to missing witnesses on January 13, 2020.
Because the video surveillance obtained from the Gallegos residence contradicts the story Reyes gave to police on July 8, Reyes was arrested and charged with making a false report to a peace officer on August 13, 2019 and was released on a $3,500 bond the next day. However, a judge increased the amount from $3,500 to $75,000 on September 4, 2019, and Reyes was taken back into custody the following day. Court records indicate that this case was closed on March 12, 2020.
On August 24, 2021, Reyes Gallegos was arrested without incident during a traffic stop on the city’s West Side. He repeatedly told reporters that he was innocent as he was transported from Public Safety Headquarters to the Magistrate’s Office, where he was formally charged with Cecilia’s murder.
Reyes Huerta Gallegos was indicted by a Bexar County Grand Jury on November 16, 2021. The indictment alleged that on July 7, 2019, Gallegos intentionally and knowingly caused the death of Cecilia Huerta Gallegos by manner and means unknown to the Grand Jury. Records indicate that this case is being prosecuted by the Family Violence Division in the 144th District Court.
On January 12, 2023, a judge reduced Reyes Huerta Gallegos’ bond from $250,000 to $150,000. Fourteen days later, on January 26, 2023, Reyes was released on house-arrest with GPS monitoring. While his current residence is unknown, he does not appear to be living in the house on Southwick Street. The trial date, previously set for March 30, 2023, is now set for July 10, 2023.
A search for Cecilia Huerta Gallegos' remains was conducted in preparation for the upcoming murder trial of her husband, Reyes Gallegos. Gene Robinson Consulting and Juan Cantu provided invaluable assistance with their drones despite temperatures reaching 107 degrees. San Antonio Demolition Company also contributed their time, heavy equipment, and expertise to the effort. All involved are commended for their hard work and dedication.
How You Can Help
The San Antonio Police Department is currently seeking any helpful information regarding the homicide of Cecilia Huerta Gallegos. If you have any information or knowledge about this case, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant it may be, we urge you to come forward and contact the San Antonio Police Department immediately by dialing (210) 207-7660. Your assistance could greatly aid in bringing justice to Ms. Gallegos and her loved ones. Remember, your voice and information could make all the difference in finding the culprits responsible for this tragic event. As a community, it is imperative that we come together and work with law enforcement to combat these violent crimes and bring peace to our neighborhoods.
Since the initial days of Cecilia's disappearance, Search & Support San Antonio has been tirelessly advocating for her. Their efforts included conducting searches and distributing flyers to raise awareness about her case. We want to thank Search & Support San Antonio for their unwavering dedication to finding Cecilia and bringing her home. Their professionalism and thoroughness in handling this case have been truly remarkable.
Despite past setbacks, the family remains committed to finding Cecilia's remains and intends to conduct another search prior to trial proceedings. To incentivize any potential leads, a GoFundMe has been established with hopes of increasing the reward amount for information leading to her recovery. Additionally, as part of a planned search operation near her domicile, heavy equipment and manpower donations are being sought after in order to clear a dump site. To aid in the search for Cecilia Huerta Gallegos, contact Search & Support San Antonio at (210) 372-7143 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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