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Family friction preceded murder

Esperanza Castro cited affairs, neglect in interviews with detectives.

Posted: March 25, 2008 1:48 a.m.
Updated: May 26, 2008 5:01 a.m.
SAN FERNANDO - In a recorded March 23, 2006, interview with sheriff's deputies, Esperanza Castro - on trial for killing her husband - voiced her frustration with Ramon Castro's lack of attention to family matters and his extramarital affairs, testimony Monday revealed.

Deputy District Attorney Paula Gonzales introduced two recordings, including the 911 phone call placed moments after Ramon Castro was killed, and an interrogation with deputies the day after the slaying, to share Esperanza Castro's story with the jury. On both recordings, Castro said that she heard loud noises and believed a stranger was about to break into her home.

The recording of the 911 call, which was placed by Esperanza Castro on March 22, 2006, and was just under three minutes in length, provided the initial explanation as to what apparently occurred that evening at the Castro home in Canyon Country.

Ramon Castro was found dead in his pickup truck under a Highway 14 overpass on Sierra Highway on March 23, 2006. Esperanza Castro had called deputies the night before to report a burglary at her home.
She is now on trial for his murder. 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 his pickup truck.

Esperanza Castro, who clearly stated her name during the emergency phone call, responded to the 911 operator in Spanish. When the male operator responded in English, Esperanza Castro handed the phone to her daughter from her first marriage, Emma Vanessa Chavez. She told the operator in English that her mother heard noises in her backyard and thought someone was trying to break into her home.

Chavez added that Esperanza Castro came to her mobile park residence on Soledad Canyon with her son, Eric Castro, and explained a possible burglary to family members. When Esperanza Castro's youngest daughter, Carina, asked where Ramon Castro was, her mother responded that he was not home.

According to the phone call, Chavez then stated that she drove her mother back to her residence on Evron Street, where they saw blood on the driveway. Upon seeing the blood, they immediately returned to Chavez's residence, where the 911 phone call was placed.

After Chavez explained her mother's story to the 911 operator, he instructed her that a deputy from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station would meet her and her mother at the Fox Liquor store, a few blocks away from the Castro residence. It was revealed during the course of the trial that Esperanza Castro did meet a deputy at the liquor store and reported to him that her home was burglarized.

In the recording of the interview between Esperanza Castro and Detective Robert Harris, which was on the morning of March 23, 2006, she explained through an English interpreter that she heard noises in her backyard as she was falling asleep. At first she ignored the noises, thinking it was her dog. However, she said she later heard a slamming sound, waking her up.

Not sure what the sound was, Esperanza Castro said she thought her dog was about to be hurt. When she came out of her downstairs bedroom to see what happened, she stated that she saw a trail of blood in the hallway and the front door was open. She then feared for her son's safety, who was falling asleep in his upstairs bedroom.

She told deputies that she ran upstairs to Eric Castro's bedroom.

With her son, Esperanza Castro added that as she ran down the stairs and out of her house into her Cadillac Escalade, she noticed that Ramon Castro's truck was not in the driveway. She also noticed that the garage door was closed.

However, when deputies arrived at the Castro residence later that evening, the garage door was apparently open. Both mother and son immediately went to Chavez's home, which was approximately two miles away.

In the same interview, Esperanza Castro also stated that Ramon Castro had pneumonia on the evening he was killed. According to her account of what happened on March 22, 2006, Ramon Castro went to work ill in the morning and visited the doctor's office before returning home that afternoon. When he returned home, he apparently watched the Spanish-language soap opera "La Tormenta" in his upstairs bedroom, which ended around 8 p.m. However, earlier in the trial, Ramon Castro, Jr., testified that he had dinner with his father at a Stevenson Ranch Coco's at approximately 8 p.m. He did not testify that his father was ill when they met.

Esperanza Castro also told Harris that she was frustrated with her husband's lifestyle, stating that he was never home and did not help her in raising their children. She also expressed that while she knew of Ramon Castro's extramarital affairs, she was not happy that he attempted to keep his last affair secret.
She added that Ramon Castro used cocaine regularly.

The second recording, where Esperanza Castro stated that she wanted to tell the truth, was played almost entirely during the afternoon session on Monday. It may be played again during today's morning session.

Judge Burt Pines stated that the Castro trial will not be in session on Wednesday and Friday this week.


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