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Castro threatened husband's life in '04

• Former lover testifies he heard death threat.

Posted: April 4, 2008 2:04 a.m.
Updated: June 5, 2008 5:02 a.m.
SAN FERNANDO - The man who lived in Ramon Castro's home and had an affair with his wife testified on Thursday that Esperanza Castro threatened to kill her husband if "another woman took her place in the house." Thursday's testimony contradicts what Esperanza Castro told detectives during her initial interview the day after Ramon Castro was killed.

In a tense day where both attorneys voiced several objections, the murder trial against Esperanza Castro resumed on Thursday after an eight-day hiatus. Deputy District Attorney Paula Gonzales continued building her case against Esperanza Castro and called two new witnesses to the stand - Ismael Carrera, who had a sexual affair with the defendant, and Joe Romero, the Spanish-speaking deputy who acted as an interpreter in her initial interview at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station the day after Ramon Castro was killed.

Esperanza Castro is on trial for murdering her husband, Ramon Castro, who was found dead in his pickup truck under a Highway 14 overpass on Sierra Highway on March 23, 2006. The night before, Esperanza Castro had called deputies to report a burglary at her home - less than one hour after Ramon Castro was killed. A neighbor and key witness for the prosecution testified last week that he saw Esperanza Castro carry her husband's body, covered in a plastic bag, to Ramon's pickup truck.

In the days that followed the slaying, detectives interviewed several potential witnesses, including Carrera. At the time, Carrera said he did not know much about the killing. Until a few days before the court took its recess on March 25, he maintained that he lacked knowledge about any key evidence that would be relevant to Esperanza Castro's trial.

However, just before the hiatus, Carrera confessed to the prosecution and to Sheriff's officials outside of court that he was aware that Esperanza Castro once threatened Ramon Castro's life.

Specifically, he stated that the Castros had a heated argument in 2004 regarding Ramon Castro's extramarital affairs. In that argument, Carrera testified that he heard Esperanza Castro tell her husband "that she'd rather see him dead than have another woman take her place in the house."

The statement contradicts what Esperanza Castro told detectives on March 23, 2006. On that day, she said that the couple never argued and she never threatened Ramon Castro's life. Esperanza Castro also told detectives that while she did not approve of her husband's affairs, she reluctantly accepted them.

Carrera's testimony was essential to the prosecution's case against Esperanza Castro, as it provided a possible motive for killing her husband. He testified that he was hesitant to come forward earlier due to a sense of loyalty to Esperanza Castro.

At the time the threat was made, Carrera was an employee of Ramon Castro's landscaping company, had sexual relations with Esperanza Castro and lived at the Castro residence. The prosecution implied that Esperanza Castro intended to have her husband killed so that she and Carrera, who was Ramon Castro's "right-hand man" and knew about all of his business operations, could take over the landscaping business.

Earlier in the day, both attorneys intensely examined Romero, questioning him about his observations and opinions about Esperanza Castro in the initial interview she had with deputies hours after Ramon Castro was found dead underneath Highway 14. Romero struggled to recall specific details the interview, which lasted four hours and occurred before Esperanza Castro was arrested later that same evening.

It was in that interview that she said that she never threatened to kill Ramon Castro.

Romero did testify that, in his opinion, Esperanza Castro appeared calm and lacked emotion until she was told that her husband was killed. He also said that she never asked about her husband, though she was concerned about the well-being of her children. Gonzales wanted to imply to the jury that since Esperanza Castro lacked emotion and concern for her husband, she probably had a role in the slaying of Ramon Castro.

When defense attorney Peter Korn cross-examined Romero, Esperanza Castro's lawyer tried to imply that the interpreter did not think highly of the defendant's intelligence and sophistication. Romero admitted that he did not think Esperanza Castro's speech had the sophistication of a Spanish-speaking politician, but it was definitely better than the average Spanish-speaking person on the street.


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