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Castro trial focuses around 2 items

• Questions raised about car, jail note.

Posted: April 5, 2008 1:09 a.m.
Updated: June 6, 2008 5:02 a.m.
SAN FERNANDO - During a relatively tame day of court proceedings after Wednesday's heated testimony, witnesses in the case against Esperanza Castro gave testimony about a vehicle Castro reported as stolen shortly after the crime, and a note allegedly passed from her to another inmate during her incarceration last year.

Though both prosecution and defense attorneys grilled the witnesses on the minutiae of the two events, the limited nature of Friday's testimony did not make it clear exactly whether these pieces of evidence pointed to Castro's guilt or innocence.

Prosecution witness Kenneth B. Quigley, a retired Los Angeles Police Department officer, related details of report he took after Castro reported her Hyundai stolen. The report was apparently made shortly after Ramon Castro's murder on March 23, 2006.

Quigley testified that Castro said she left the vehicle unlocked with the key in the ignition in the parking lot of a local business. When she returned to the car a short time later, it was gone. It was later found somewhere in the jurisdiction of the LAPD's Foothill Division, though Quigley did not specify where.

Sheriff's Deputy Richard Lopez, who took the stand after Quigley, testified that the vehicle was examined for potential evidence. When Deputy District Attorney Paula Gonzales asked Lopez about the condition of the vehicle and whether anything was missing, he replied that the floor mats were missing, the front driver side window was smashed, and the car appeared to be vandalized and stripped.

On cross-examination by defense attorney Peter Korn, Lopez stated that biological evidence such as cigarette butts were found in the vehicle, but no blood stains. No ropes, trash bags, metal pipes or other paraphernalia consistent with a murder were found in the vehicle either.

On re-direct, Lopez said that he found a blood stain in the sink of Ismael Carrera's apartment. Carrera, who was living in the Castro household at the time of the murder, admitted earlier in the trial to having an affair with Esperanza Castro.

Based on testimony that has been given so far in the case, it seems the prosecution is trying to imply that Carrera and Castro conspired to murder Ramon Castro so they could take over his landscaping business.

The next witness, Barbara Torres, a forensic document examiner, described a note that was allegedly passed from Castro to another inmate in June of 2007. At that time Castro had been incarcerated at the Century Regional Detention Center in Lynwood for more than a year, and the other inmate, Raquel Rivas, had been there less than a month.

Rivas handed the note over to homicide detective Robert Harris shortly after she received it.

Though the content of the note was not detailed nor was the relationship between the two women, who were housed in nearby cells, Torres testified that the note was written by Castro. She used graphological analysis to compared the writing in the "questioned" note to "exemplar" writings that were known to have been made by Castro. That there were dozens of similarities led her to conclude that there was a very high probability that Castro penned note.


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