Community gathers to support family of Julie Ann Gonzalez

The Central Texas community showed its love and support Saturday for a local family who’s been through one tragedy after another.

A benefit was held at Jack’s Roadhouse in San Marcos for Sandra Soto—after her house in Dripping Springs burned down last week. She and her family were able to get out safely after being woken up by their dog. However, the house was destroyed, and they lost everything.

The fire comes as Soto continues to search for answers in the loss of her daughter. 13 years ago, Julie Ann Gonzalez, 21, disappeared from a South Austin Walgreens. Her ex-husband was found guilty of murdering her, but her body was never found.

But at Saturday’s benefit—which featured homemade barbecue and live music—the family was encouraged by the support they’ve gotten from total strangers, as they deal with this latest setback.

"We have been through a lot, and at first, whenever I got the news, I did think this is one more thing thrown at us," said Soto’s daughter Samantha Petri. "Today it really shows that not just love and support from our family and our friends, but people that know the story of my sister Julie Ann Gonzalez,, that they don't forget about our family, they don't forget about her story. 

What happened to Julie Ann Gonzalez?

21-year-old Julie Ann Gonzalez was last seen in March 2010. Her car was found abandoned the Walgreens near the intersection of South 1st and Stassney Lane where she worked.

Investigators say Gonzalez's ex-husband George De La Cruz was allegedly the last person to see her alive.

De La Cruz told investigators that Gonzalez had asked him to watch their daughter for a few more days and then left town with a new lover.

It was a story Gonzalez's family didn't buy, and neither did a jury. In 2015, De La Cruz was put on trial for the murder of his estranged-wife.

During the trial, prosecutors showed evidence connecting De La Cruz to the case.

They reportedly couldn't ignore tracking data from cellphone towers that put Gonzalez's missing phone near locations where De La Cruz frequently visited. And De La Cruz also reportedly went on a shopping spree with her debit card.

De La Cruz was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Gonzalez's body has never been found.