Nicholas Andrew Plaza

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Top Row and Bottom Left and Center: Nicholas, circa 2001;
Bottom Right: Age-progression to age 18 (circa 2014)


Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: October 23, 2001 from San Antonio, Texas
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date of Birth: February 26, 1996
  • Age: 5 years old
  • Height and Weight: 3'1 - 3'6, 30 - 40 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Hispanic male. Brown hair, brown eyes. Nicholas's nickname is Nicky. He has a light brown birthmark below his navel and silver caps on several of his teeth.
  • Medical Conditions: Nicholas may be in need of medical attention.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Nicholas was last seen at his family's residence in the 100 block of Rock Valley in San Antonio, Texas on October 23, 2001. He resided there with his mother, Priscilla Ann Plaza; her boyfriend, Ruben Zavala Jr.; and Zavala's mother, Celia Ramos. He has never been heard from again. He was not reported missing until November 21. A photograph of Priscilla is posted below this case summary.

    After Nicholas went missing, Zavala gave an interview with the media wherein he stated that the child was deceased and that he and Priscilla were both to blame for his death, as they did not get medical attention for him. Zavala stated that he and Priscilla had wrapped Nicholas's body in garbage bags and placed it in a garbage bin behind a bank. He told investigators that Nicholas had been sick for months and one night he simply stopped breathing and could not be revived. Zavala led authorities to the alley along Rock Valley Drive where he claimed he had disposed of the boy's remains, but nothing was found there in spite of an extensive search.

    Court documents stated that Nicholas had been "tortured" and sexually abused for months before his presumed death. Zavala told police that Priscilla was an alcoholic and an unfit parent; Priscilla stated that Zavala had abused Nicholas physically and sexually and would not let her get medical help for the child. Priscilla ended her relationship with Zavala after Nicholas vanished and moved out of the home she shared with him. In 2006, Zavala was first charged with abusing Nicholas, then with murdering him. Priscilla was charged with injury to a child by omission. She later pleaded guilty to the charges against her and agreed to testify against Zavala. She admitted she knowingly failed to protect her son from Zavala's abuse.

    Prosecutors decided not to try Zavala for Nicholas's murder; instead, he was tried for injury to a child, which is easier to prove. In her testimony at Zavala's trial in the summer of 2007, Priscilla stated the last time she saw Nicholas he was in very poor physical condition: he could not walk due to an ankle injury, his hair was falling out, his genitals were blue-colored and swollen, red spots covered his body and he appeared to be pale and weak. Priscilla stated she wanted to take her son to a hospital but Zavala convinced her not to. Priscilla said she and Zavala went to the movies together, and when they returned, Ramos told her Child Protective Services (CPS) had taken Nicholas to a hospital. Priscilla did not report her son missing for over a month because she says she believed Ramos's story. But CPS had not in fact taken custody of Nicholas, and Ramos denies telling Priscilla they had. Ramos stated she was unaware of the child's absence for several weeks, although he lived with her, and confirmed that he had been very ill prior to going missing.

    Zavala was convicted of injury to a child in July 2007 and was sentenced to 67 years in prison. Priscilla got 20 years in prison. Nicholas has never been found, but foul play is suspected in his case due to the circumstances involved.

    Priscilla Plaza
    Above: Priscilla Plaza


    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    San Antonio Police Department


    Source Information
    The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
    Texas Department of Public Safety
    San Antonio Police Department
    The Heidi Search Center
    The San Antonio Express-News
    KSAT San Antonio
    WOAI San Antonio News


    Updated 6 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated April 18, 2014; age-progression updated.

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