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Bond reset at $8M for man accused of fatally shooting his child’s mother in west Houston

Authorities say Zacchaeus Gaston, 27, removed his ankle monitor the day of the shooting.

HOUSTON – A murder suspect that authorities said was out on bond with multiple violent crimes faced a judge again Friday morning.

On Friday, there was a struggle as two deputies were bringing Zacchaeus Gaston into the courtroom. Gaston could be heard shouting, “I don’t want to go in here, bro,” and then he was removed from the courtroom area. The judge decided the bond was insufficient on the murder charge, so it was increased to $5 million. In addition, the bond on the aggravated assault charge was also raised to $3 million, bringing the total to $8 million.

The judge initially set Gaston’s bond at $1 million on the murder charge and $500,000 on the aggravated assault charge following his arrest Thursday. On his two misdemeanor cases, the judge kept his bond at $1,000 and $2,000, as set by the trial judge. Gaston was also thrown out of the courtroom Thursday for being disruptive.

If Gaston makes bond, he will be under house arrest and monitoring. The judge set another court date on the 21st and will discuss the bail of previous charges.

Following Gaston’s arrest, Houston Crime Stoppers revealed on social media that an anonymous tipster led authorities to him.

Gaston, 27, was arrested on Thursday at 12:40 a.m. and charged with murder and aggravated assault. A warrant issued for his arrest said he fatally shot his child’s mother, Layla Steele, 24, on July 1 as she held their son.

Steele died protecting her son Zeus, who turned one the day of the shooting. Zeus was struck in the leg by a bullet but is expected to recover with the help of a leg cast. Court documents say Layla and her mother were on the phone moments before the shooting.

Two witnesses at the apartment complex off Westpark Drive in west Houston told investigators they heard arguing and saw the couple fighting over a backpack. One witness said they heard Gaston say “see what you finna make me do” before pulling a black pistol on Layla as she held their child.

RELATED: Murder suspect with 7 felony bonds cuts off ankle monitor while on the run, officials say

Another witness told investigators they saw Gaston shoot Layla in the torso once, in which she fell to the ground covering her son. That witness says Gaston stood over Layla and fired four to five more times. The witness said they saw Gaston hitting the victim in the head and yelled for him to stop. That’s when the witness said Gaston ran off, leaving the backpack and his ID behind. While prosecutors were laying out those details in probable cause court Thursday, Gaston made several outbursts and was escorted from the courtroom for disruptive behavior.

READ MORE: Family holds birthday celebration for 1-year-old boy injured in shooting

Layla Steele and Zeus (KPRC 2)

Gaston was wearing an ankle monitor the day of the shooting but cut the device off, according to Spurgeon Kennedy, co-interim director of Harris County Pretrial Services.

Harris County Pretrial Services is the agency that monitored Gaston’s GPS device. Gaston was ordered to wear an ankle monitor on Dec. 5, 2020, as a condition of his bond related to an aggravated assault charge. Kennedy said the agency stopped monitoring Gaston at the end of June because the trial judge dismissed the case.

Prosecutors filed motions requesting Gaston be denied an ankle monitor in the future, be prohibited from contacting Layla’s family, and not be allowed to own or be around a firearm.

At a service for Steele, her family said they had a brief sense of relief when Gaston was captured but they’re disappointed he was still granted bond.


About the Authors:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, social media news and local crime.