Frankie Gonzalez, the two-year-old boy whose mother led police to his body in a dumpster in Waco, Texas last week, has been laid to rest.
(Frankie’s name was spelled Gonzales in my previous post because that was the spelling the police used in his AMBER alert, but it has since been corrected to Gonzalez.)
Visitation was held at OakCrest Funeral Home on the evening of Monday, June 8, including prayer and rosary services. In a private ceremony on the morning of Tuesday, June 9, Frankie’s family said their goodbyes to the little boy with the sweet smile and the big brown eyes. St. Francis Catholic Church hosted the Mass of Christian Burial with the Reverend J. Eduardo Jazo as Celebrant. Frankie’s burial followed at Rosemound Cemetery.
The services were private at the request of Frankie’s family, which has received a barrage of negative comments and even death threats in the wake of this tragedy. Evidently, some people suspected Frankie’s maternal aunt, Alicia, was stealing money raised to benefit Frankie’s father, Lorenzo Gonzalez. Alicia and Lorenzo did a Facebook live interview together to dispel the rumors, but the video is no longer available. They assured the public that any funds received in memory of Frankie were being given directly to Lorenzo.
The family has also expressed its gratitude for the support of the Waco community and issued a special message of appreciation to the Waco Police Department for the care and concern the department showed the family during and after the search for Frankie; to the Downsville Volunteer Fire Department; to Wolfe Florist and Reed’s Flower for donating floral arrangements; and to Rudy Cantu for the artwork he created on Frankie’s casket. “Blessings and goodwill to all,” the family said via the Waco Tribune-Herald.
The Waco area continues to mourn for the little boy who was reported missing the morning of Monday, June 1, only to be discovered, wrapped in black plastic garbage bags in a dumpster behind a church, the following morning after his mother confessed to police that she had placed him there several days prior. On the evening of June 6, the I-35 bridge near McLane Stadium was lit up in blue in Frankie’s honor.
Local businesses as well as the Waco community as a whole have joined forces to help the Gonzalez family. Initially, Phillip Dunn, managing partner at Bubba’s 33 restaurant, offered to cover the cost of Frankie’s funeral. Phillip, a father of two, told a news station, “We see stories like this, but you don’t expect it to happen just a few miles from home… Just looking at those big brown eyes and seeing him with that Mickey Mouse hat on, knowing that he’s only two years old and he never had a chance. Seeing that happen and hearing the events — it hit me hard.”
After he reached out with his offer to pay for the funeral, others stepped up to help. “Our goal was not to fundraise; our goal wasn’t to collect donations,” Phillip said. “Our goal was just to give a gift to this family and help them through this very difficult process. But the community of Waco just stepped in.”
Other local businesses donated Frankie’s casket, his burial plot, his headstone, and flowers for his funeral. Philip said, “We want his final resting spot to be something very, very, very precious to the entire community.”
Family members have expressed their gratitude for all of the support they have received. Frankie’s older brother, Michael Ocasio, said, “I just appreciate everybody for helping.”
Frankie’s aunt, Brooke Martinez, said, “We are thankful to them to come together and help us. It’s very, very painful to see my nephew gone. We love and miss him dearly.”
The dumpster where Frankie’s body was hidden has been removed, leaving behind a memorial consisting of candles, stuffed animals, balloons, and handmade signs. When the family visited the site two days after the discovery of Frankie’s body, cousin Jonathan Medina said, “To see everybody come together as one and support our family member, it means a lot.”
Jonathan said the family misses little Frankie’s laughter. “Even if they were mad at him, he would always find a way to make us laugh. He was a little kid. He was always outgoing. He always had a smile on his face.”
“It’s going to be weird not seeing him anymore or seeing him around the house.”
Bubba’s 33 offered more assistance to the family by hosting a “Dine to Donate” event on Tuesday, June 9 from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM. All proceeds, including dine-in and to-go orders, as well as all donations received were donated to help the family cover expenses.
Local artist Skcoobaveli Trevino created a gorgeous memorial painting of Frankie in just two-and-a-half hours. KWTX reporter Drake Lawson spoke with Trevino last week.
Like everyone else, Trevino initially thought they were searching on June 1 for a boy who had either wandered off or been abducted. “When I found out it was a deeper story than that, it just touched me,” he said. “I needed to put something on board… My lasting memory is going to be this and how much the community came together for one child, and most of us didn’t even know this child. When we found out the story, the whole community gathered up. So, Frankie, to me, is Waco. It shows us that we can get together and do big things. There’s always a shoulder to lean on; there’s always somebody to your left and right. We saw it [Monday] with all the turnout, and hopefully it continues to do so to where people say, ‘Hey, there are people that care about me in this community. Waco is a good place to be.”
Frankie’s mother, 35-year-old Laura Jane Villalon Sanchez, was arrested on June 2 on a first-degree felony charge of injury to a child resulting in death. Search warrants were released indicating police searched Laura’s red 2005 Kia Spectra5 for evidence, adding that Laura “admitted in a written confession that she caused injury to the victim which may have led to his death,” and that investigators believe after a forensic examination of the vehicle that “this vehicle was used to transport the corpse of the victim.”
Laura told police that Frankie died on or around May 28 and that she did not report his death; instead, she said, she kept his body in her home until about May 30 before leaving him in the dumpster. She later led them to the trash receptacle in the parking lot of a church.
Crime scene technicians swabbed the car for evidence, taking samples of the floorboard carpet, a blood swab from the front driver’s side mirror, as well as a diaper bag, a shirt, a pillow case, a purple fitted sheet, four blankets, black trash bags, two bottles of bleach, and laundry scent booster.
News came out this week that Laura Sanchez’s parental rights were terminated in 2015 in regard to six children due to her prolonged drug addiction and allegations of neglect, which was confirmed by Waco lawyer Gerald Villarrial on Friday, June 5, who represented the interests of the six children during court proceedings to terminate Laura’s parental rights.
“She not only lost custody; her parental rights were terminated, and that’s because the main part of that was neglect and drug abuse,” said Villarrial. “She was doing drugs during that time and couldn’t stop.”
State child welfare caseworkers opened another investigation of Laura in 2017 when hospital tests revealed the presence of drugs in her system while pregnant with her daughter.
The most recent court filings by Child Protective Services have been ordered sealed by Associate Judge Nikki Mundkowsky, so it is unknown whether a case was open at the time of Frankie’s death.
Laura is still being held in McLennan County Jail in lieu of a $500,000 bond on the charge of injury to a child. She is also held without bond on a parole violation.
Laura’s mother, Caroline Medina, told KWTX News 10 last week that she had disowned her daughter, saying, “I may have had her, but she’s not a part of me no more.”
Jail visits are prohibited at this time due to COVID-19 restrictions, but even when visitation is allowed, Caroline said, “I don’t want to see her at all. They would have to pull me out of that jail, because I would go crazy. I went crazy when I found out about that little boy, my grandson, that she put him in the trash can. I cried; I cried up and down.”
The last time Caroline saw Frankie was the week before, when he left to accompany Laura to the laundromat. “When she came back over here, she didn’t have Frankie. She said she left him with a friend.”
Regarding a motive, Caroline offered, “Honestly, I think she did it out of jealousy.” She believed Frankie’s father favored him over Laura herself and their two young daughters.
“My heart is broken into pieces, because that little boy is my heart,” Caroline said. “He’s always going to be my heart.”
However, Caroline added, “Frankie’s not only my grandchild; Frankie’s everybody’s baby now.”
Sources: Waco Tribune-Herald, KWTX News 10, Facebook, Missing Souls Justice for Frankie Gonzalez Facebook group, Fox44 News