It was shortly after 10 p.m. on a Sunday when Laura asked her mother if she could go to the store to buy a newspaper for a school project. When Laura didn't return from the store, her mother became worried and went to the store to look for her. Unable to find her daughter, Laura's mother called police and reported her missing.
Laura's shoes and newspaper were found scattered in a nearby parking lot next to the convenience store in the 2600 block of Broadway.
Police began an intense search of the area and volunteers handed out flyers and canvassed the neighborhood. Gay Smither, mother of Laura Smither who was abducted and murdered in 1997, came to the scene with the Laura Recovery Center to help find Ayala.
The case also marked the first time Tim Miller and the Texas EquuSearch volunteer organization stepped in to assist on a Houston missing person's case.
Police initially thought Laura was taken to the border on a bus, but that lead proved to be a dead end.
VIDEO: Raw video of the search for Laura Ayala
In 2002, police arrested three men in connection with the murders of several women on the East End. Police found DNA in the men's van that matched Laura Ayala but couldn't find enough evidence to charge the men in the case.
Two of those men, Walter Sorto, and Edgardo Cubas, were sentenced to death for the murders of Roxana Capulin and Maria Rangel. Eduardo Navarro, who was a juvenile at the time and believed to be the getaway driver, was eventually charged with another crime and sentenced to juvenile detention for 13 years.