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Castro prosecutor attempts to salvage witness

Posted: March 20, 2008 10:44 p.m.
Updated: May 22, 2008 5:02 a.m.
SAN FERNANDO - Two days after a witness for the prosecution struggled on the stand during cross-examination, Deputy District Attorney Paula Gonzales attempted to rebuild her case against Esperanza Castro on Thursday when she called to the witness stand a deputy who interviewed Antonio "Tony" Garcia after Ramon Castro's death.

On Tuesday, Garcia, who lived across the street from the Castro residence in Canyon Country, made statements inconsistent with what he said in the days immediately after the slaying of Ramon Castro. The next morning, Garcia's testimony was discredited - or impeached - and Gonzales struggled to salvage his testimony.

Ramon Castro was found dead in his pickup truck under a Highway 14 overpass on Sierra Highway on March 22, 2006. Esperanza Castro had called deputies to report a burglary at her home. She is now on trial for his murder. Garcia, a neighbor and key witness for the prosecution, told detectives that he saw Esperanza Castro carry her husband's body to the truck.

Two witnesses took the stand on behalf of the prosecution on Thursday, as Gonzales attempted to re-establish, or rehabilitate, Garcia's testimony.

One of those witnesses, sheriff's Deputy Richard Lopez, testified about his interviews with Garcia after Ramon Castro was killed. Garcia was interviewed four times by deputies; Lopez was involved in three of them.

Lopez testified about the fourth and final interview, where he showed Garcia several photographs of potential accomplices and a recovered vehicle. The prosecution argued that Esperanza Castro apparently had assistance in killing Ramon Castro. Approximately 36 individual mug shots were presented to Garcia. Lopez hoped Garcia could identify the person suspected of assisting Esperanza Castro and the vehicle that person drove. Garcia claimed he saw both the individual and the car.

However, when cross-examined, Garcia gave inconsistent testimony on both issues.

A second witness, Susan Johnson, appeared on behalf of T-Mobile. She testified about the authenticity of Esperanza Castro's phone records, which were presented by the prosecution as evidence. Gonzales introduced the phone records to show who Esperanza Castro called immediately after Ramon Castro was killed.

The records may help the prosecution's case by implying that Esperanza Castro is still a prime suspect in the slaying of her husband, despite Garcia's testimony earlier this week.

The Castro murder trial will take a break today and resume on Monday.


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