WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The families of Lauren Landavazo and Makayla Smith are thanking the Wichita Falls Police Department and Crime Stoppers now that investigators have identified the suspects involved in stealing and destroying the “Forever” horse statue.
The memorial honors both girls who were shot while walking home from McNiel three years ago.
Bowie residents Zachary Kasier and Tyler Darland have already bonded out of jail. Dakota James and Braydon Seward, both from Wichita Falls, will also face charges
The horse disappeared from its spot outside McNiel Middle School in the early morning hours of Oct. 1.
Police officers located the statue in pieces in a barn along FM 2393 in Clay County a month later.
“Crime Stoppers played a huge role in this,” Sergeant John Spraggins said. “It’s a, I’d like to call it, ‘perfect scenario.’ How Crime Stoppers and citizens working together to solve these crimes because, without the Crime Stoppers tip, I don’t know if we would have solved it.”
At Thursday’s press conference, Lauren’s family credited the dedication of investigators.
“People that are waiting for justice can always have faith in our law enforcement and our district attorney’s office here,” Vern Landavazo, Lauren’s father, said. “They care about us and they really do an amazing job. So that was what today was really about for us.”
But in the meantime, Vern said his family is looking toward the future and the way the community is responding.
“It gives us as a community a chance to rise and show what we are really about which is coming together and supporting each other and loving each other. Despite the differences. That’s one of the things I’m proud about Wichita Falls and the surrounding area,” Landavazo said.
It’s support from people like Vern Landavazo’s co-worker Bethany Tulley who sprung into action once she heard about the stolen horse that gives him hope.
“When I found out this horse was stolen, Biana Landavazo reached out to me the day of and it just lit a fire in my heart and decided let’s get this replaced,” Tulley said.
With the backing of the community, it didn’t take long for Tulley to find a replacement.
“Mayor Steven Santeanna actually reached out to the families and talked to Senator Pat Fallon and they brainstormed an idea basically to raise funds for the new horse,” Tulley said.
Plans to have the new “Forever” horse statue back in its rightful place in front of McNiel Middle School could come as early as January.
Investigators said all four suspects confessed to the crime and said they didn’t know the significance of the horse.