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Trial Opens in Castro Murder

Posted: March 4, 2008 11:34 p.m.
Updated: May 6, 2008 5:02 a.m.
SAN FERNANDO - Nearly two years after Ramon Castro was found beaten and shot to death, a calm Esperanza Castro quietly sat in a courtroom and listened to a translator explaining in Spanish the case presented against her by county Deputy District Attorney Paula Gonzales.

Castro is accused of murdering her husband on March 22, 2006, and faces one charge of first-degree murder and conspiracy in the death. Ramon Castro's body was found in the bed of his truck underneath a Highway 14 overpass on Sierra Highway after deputies responded to a 911 call placed by Castro about a burglary. The call was made less than one hour after Ramon Castro was killed.

Prosecutors built their case in front of a sequestered jury against Castro on Tuesday, implying that Ramon's life insurance policy - worth a combined $1.15 million - and numerous extramarital affairs were motives for Esperanza to murder her husband. Gonzales' lead witness also testified that there were no signs of forced entry or items taken from the house, potentially disproving Castro's initial claim that her house was burglarized.

"She previously threatened Ramon's life," Gonzalez said in her opening statement. "It was obvious they were not getting along, and divorce was a possibility."

Gonzales added that both Ramon and Esperanza slept in separate rooms, and she had witness testimony to place Mrs. Castro at the scene of the murder, which was at the family's Canyon Country home.

She also implied that the murder was premeditated, since there were suspicious circumstances surrounding the Castros, such as the life insurance polices; infidelity by both husband and wife; and Esperanza Castro's delay in calling 911 on the evening of the murder.

However, defense attorney Peter Korn responded that the prosecution's witnesses were not credible and the extramarital affairs and the life insurance policy were common knowledge.

"There is going to be evidence that witnesses changed their stories," Korn said in his opening statement. "It was common knowledge that Ramon was a philanderer and known to my client. He had girlfriends in the past and the cheating was no secret. The life insurance was known for a long time, too.

"This case remains unsolved. The person who committed this murder is not here."

While Gonzales and Korn presented their respective cases in opening statements on Tuesday morning, Sheriff's Deputy Charles Moylan of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station testified about his observations at the crime scene. Moylan was the first deputy to respond to Castro's 911 phone call.

On the evening of March 22, 2006, Ramon was beaten and shot to death before he was left for dead in his landscaping company truck on Sierra Highway. Esperanza Castro made an emergency phone call regarding a burglary at her residence in Canyon Country. When Moylan received the call from the 911 dispatcher, he was instructed to meet Castro at a local liquor store near the residence. However, the dispatcher did not mention Ramon in her broadcast, according to Moylan.

When Moylan arrived at the liquor store, he found Castro in her Cadillac Escalade and followed her to her house. When they arrived, Moylan discovered a visible pool of blood in the driveway.

He instructed Castro to stay outside as he and two deputies followed a trail of blood from the driveway through the garage and into the upstairs master bedroom, where the three deputies found a bloodied bed and several items in the room knocked over.

"There was blood everywhere - on the bed, carpet, walls and ceiling," Moylan said in his testimony. "All the bedding was gone; it looked like a fight broke out."

He added that he did not see anyone in the room, and immediately investigated the rest of the house.

After Moylan made his initial testimony, Gonzales presented 87 photographs of Castro's home, including the bedroom where Ramon was apparently beaten to death with a pipe. As she showed each photograph to the jury, Moylan explained his observations about what the pictures depicted, including the pool of blood and the blood trail.

Moylan also pointed out that nothing in the house was ransacked or taken, nor was there any evidence of forced entry.

Gonzales ultimately used the photographs to lead Moylan through this testimony to imply that there was never a burglary and that Castro's emergency call stating otherwise was a cover-up for her actions.

Moylan added that he also found a blood trail leading into Castro's bedroom downstairs. He also found blood on her jeans later that evening, which was identified as Ramon's blood by the Sheriff's Station's laboratory.

The deputy's testimony took up the entire first day of trial, which continues today in Department J of the San Fernando Superior Court. The trial is expected to last six weeks.


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