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Children testify in Castro trial

Posted: March 11, 2008 2:06 a.m.
Updated: May 12, 2008 5:01 a.m.
SAN FERNANDO - Eric Castro testified Monday that his mother spirited him from the family's Canyon Country home the night his father was killed, but he knew of no evidence suggesting his father was slain by robbers, as his mother initially reported.

Castro testified he was in his room, across from his father's room, at the time of the killing on March 22, 2006. As he fell asleep, he said, his mother, Esperanza Castro, knocked on the door and told him that someone was breaking in the house. He immediately put on a shirt and raced outside with his mother, through the front door, and they drove to a family member's home nearby.

"I was scared," testified Eric, who is apparently in his mid-teens.

"I just put on a shirt and followed her outside to the car."

As they ran out, Castro said, he did not see any blood in the house, nor did he recall seeing a pool of blood on the driveway. As they drove to the family member's home, neither he nor his mother called 911, he said.

Castro, his older sister Karina and half-brother Ramon Castro Jr. testified Monday during the murder trial of Esperanza Castro. Ramon Castro was found dead in his pickup truck on Sierra Highway at Highway 14 in Canyon Country. But blood was found in the driveway and in Castro's bedroom.

Esperanza Castro's jury trial began last Tuesday at San Fernando Superior Court before Judge Burt Pines. Castro is charged with one count of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.

When defense attorney Paul Korn asked Eric Castro whether he heard gunshots while he was still home, he said he did not.

He and his mother drove to the home of Emma Vanessa, Ramon Castro's daughter from his first marriage, where the couple's daughter, Karina, was staying.

Karina, who took the stand among a storm of tears that forced a brief recess, said she suspected her father's death when Esperanza and Eric arrived that March night.

Shortly afterward, Karina went with her mother to Fox Liquor in Canyon Country, a few blocks from their home, to meet with local deputies about the burglary call that Esperanza placed earlier in the night.

Karina, who said she last saw her father earlier in the day working in the garage, said she felt odd as she drove with deputies to her home from Fox Liquor.

"I had a feeling something was wrong," Karina testified. "My heart was beating fast."

When the prosecutor asked Karina if she knew about her father's extramarital affairs, she said she knew Castro's girlfriend personally and met her a few months earlier.

Both Eric and Karina testified that they had heard talk of their parents divorcing.

During testimony earlier Monday, Ramon Castro Jr., the oldest son from his father's first marriage, recalled an evening meal with his father, just hours before the older man was slain.

"I saw him at Coco's restaurant in Stevenson Ranch at about 7 p.m."

Castro Jr. said. "We met to have dinner. It was kind of a celebration. I had just made my first payment on my mortgage."

He also testified that another man, Ismael Carrera, lived at the Castro residence. Carrera, in his early to mid-20s, worked for Castro's landscaping company. According to Castro Jr., Carrera stayed in the downstairs bedroom, the same bedroom where Esperanza slept.

Eric and Karina both testified that they knew of him, though he did not live at the Castro residence at the time of the killing.

At the end of Castro Jr.'s testimony, Deputy District Attorney Paula Gonzales asked him how he heard about his father's death. He tearfully replied that he heard about it through the news.

Witness testimony will continue today in Department J of the San Fernando Superior Court.


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