Two years before Wichita police arrested Zachary Gaston in a shooting where a stray bullet killed an 8-year-old girl as she slept, there were warning signs. And there was optimism.
At a court hearing in November 2010, before he was sent to prison for violating his probation, Gaston told a judge, “I want to be there for my daughter. … I want to do right in my life. I want to go to school, to take care of my daughter myself … I don’t want to come out of prison and my daughter is 4 years old,” a transcript of the hearing said.
But District Court Judge John Kisner told Gaston, then 22, that he had no choice but to revoke his probation and send him to prison to serve the remainder of his 24-month sentence for possessing methamphetamine. During the hearing, Gaston admitted he had used again and said he was an addict. Once, he even brought his drug to court, the transcript said. The final straw came two months before the hearing, during a traffic stop near Douglas and Washington in which an officer found a 9 mm handgun in Gaston’s backpack.
The judge told Gaston he hoped he could get treatment after being released from prison and hoped he could stay away from Wichita, where some people badly influenced him.
The shooting early Tuesday occurred three months after the Kansas Department of Corrections discharged Gaston.
Wichita police said someone opened fire at a man fleeing in a stolen car. Stray bullets wounded a 46-year-old woman in one mobile home and, in an adjacent mobile home, killed 8-year-old Kimbra Moore as she slept with two younger siblings, police said.
Wednesday morning, police found the Ford Focus that had been stolen during the altercation in the 3000 block of South Broadway at about 3 a.m. Tuesday. But police said they had yet to find the driver. They said the driver is acquainted with at least one of the four people he argued with in the parking lot of the motel-apartment complex just north of the Oaks Mobile Home Park.
Gaston, 24, remained in jail Wednesday evening, where he was being held on suspicion of felony murder, aggravated battery with a firearm and shooting at occupied dwellings. His bond was $500,000. Jessica Padilla, 28, was arrested on an outstanding warrant and suspicion of aiding and abetting Gaston. Investigators plan to present evidence to the District Attorney’s Office later this week.
On Wednesday, a relative of Gaston said she was not ready to comment, and a lawyer who previously defended him could not be reached for comment.
After the judge sent Gaston to prison following the hearing in late 2010, Gaston was at times released on parole. But he kept violating conditions of his parole and was returned to jail or prison, state corrections records show.
At the hearing in 2010, Gaston told the judge: “I am a drug addict. I did smoke dope.” He had been in a drug court program. “That’s the one thing I have not done in the program; I did not lie,” Gaston told Kisner.
Gaston said he had been involved with other drug users in “the methamphetamine game.”
At the time of the hearing, his daughter was 20 months old, and he said her welfare was on his mind, according to the transcript.
Still, by September 2010, he was failing to give a urine sample and was not showing up for some of his court appointments. Kisner noted an incident where Gaston “was found in possession of methamphetamine here in the courtroom.”
His mother told Kisner her son did well while in treatment, “but if he’s not in your program, he’s going to get out and have nothing.”
Court records showed that Gaston had held fast-food jobs at times.
The prosecutor argued that Gaston had been given plenty of chances but kept getting into trouble.
The transcript quoted the prosecutor: “I truly believe as Zach stands here today, he is serious. … He means it today, until the next time he gets around the friends and the buddies. I don’t know if it’s part of the addiction. … I think maybe he hasn’t hit the place where it is so lousy that he doesn’t ever want to go there again.”