Bail set at $1M for accused child murderer - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Bail set at $1M for accused child murderer

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - A 31-year-old Yigo man is being held behind bars on $1 million cash bail, accused of beating a 23-month-old girl so badly that she died from the extensive injuries. The defendant appeared before a judge today and is already seeking release from jail.

John Jesse Castro appeared via videoconference in front of Magistrate Judge Alberto Tolentino this afternoon.  His family sat in the front row of the courtroom listening intently as the judge discussed the aggravated murder charges that were filed against him.  Attorney Curtis Van De Veld was retained by Castro's family to represent him in the magistrate and bail hearings only. 

Castro is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated assault and child abuse accused of beating toddler last week.  An autopsy revealed that the girl had bruising all over her head and body, a fractured skull and extensive internal injuries. Castro told police the little girl had fallen and hit her head and he massaged her.  The magistrate's report indicated that the autopsy indicated that the bruising to the girl's head occurred several days before the victim was brought to the hospital.

Said Van De Veld, "The only reported contact between Mr. Castro and the victim is on the night of the January 10, 2014. So if we accept as true the facts as stated here, this person sustained injuries several days before there was any indication of contact between her and the defendant. I think this raises a serious question of probable cause."

Assistant AG Jesse Nasis, however, argued that the defense misunderstood the facts of the case. "I would assert that there is in fact probable cause because the information that has been presented by [medical examiner] Dr. [Aurelio] Espinola Does cover the dates in question when Mr. Castro was caring for the infant, which would be January 10," he said.

Castro is unemployed and has six children. As we reported he was arrested three times in the last decade.  In January 2009 he was arrested on charges of family violence and theft of property but was released less than two months later.  In March 2008 he was arrested for family violence and assault and released from jail the next day. In 2003, Castro was arrested on charges of 1st and 2nd degree criminal sexual conduct, child abuse and family violence but he was released the same day as per the Attorney General's Office.  Despite the arrests, the court's records show that no criminal cases were ever filed against him.

Today the AG's Office asked that bail be set at $1 million, calling the circumstances of the case "extremely disturbing".  Nasis stated, "She did suffer bruises to her face, back and knee, ruptured small intestine, lacerated liver due to blunt force trauma. She suffered a contusion on her forehead and multiple contusions on the back of her head, and there's no dispute that the baby was under the defendant's care which is at least on January 10."

Van De Veld indicated he is looking for third-party custodians for his client as he will seek his release on bail next week, noting, "It really is grandstanding because of the nature of the charges that the government presents in this case in trying to appeal to the community for purposes of possible politics, but I don't see this as any sincere request for the least onerous set of conditions. A man who has no money and can't even meet a ten thousand dollar bail asking for a million is absurd."

Castro is scheduled to appear back in court on January 24 for a preliminary hearing in front of Judge James Canto.  He was ordered to have no contact with the victim's mother.

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