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Experts: Castillo didn't believe shootings were wrong

Posted August 14, 2009

— An Orange County man accused of killing his father and opening fire on his former high school three years ago understood the shootings were against the law but didn't believe they were morally wrong, two mental health experts testified Friday.

Alvaro Castillo, 22, is charged with fatally shooting his father, Rafael Huezo Castillo, on Aug. 30, 2006, and then driving to Orange High School with a cache of weapons and opening fire. Two students were injured in the school shooting, which ended when school personnel tackled the gunman.

Castillo has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and he told Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour Friday afternoon that he wouldn't testify in his defense.

Psychologist James Hilkey testified that Castillo knew that the shootings would cause people harm but felt compelled to carry them out because he was destined to do so.

"He recognizes there are consequences to his actions," Hilkey said. "He doesn't believe in his mind that what he's doing is morally wrong."

Hilkey testified that Castillo's delusional thought processes justified his actions because he thought he was "sacrificing" people and sparing them from worldly pain.

Orange County District Attorney James Woodall pressed Hilkey repeatedly, suggesting that Castillo's expressions of remorse about the shootings and requests for forgiveness in a journal and in videos he taped before and after his father's death showed Castillo could distinguish between right and wrong.

Hilkey maintained that Castillo differentiated between legal and moral guilt.

"He knows he ended the life of a person," he testified. "He believes he carried out what he was instructed to do by his thinking process."

Dr. James Bellard, a partner in Raleigh Psychiatry Associates, testified that Castillo believed he was "enlightened by God" to carry out the shootings to save people from suffering.

"He believed he was going to be helping people by harming them," Bellard said, calling Castillo's delusions an "unshakable belief."

He said Castillo suffers from schizo-affective disorder, meaning he has characteristics of both schizophrenia and depression, and couldn't understand that the shootings were wrong.

Castillo began to focus on sacrificing people only after a failed suicide attempt four months before the shootings, Hilkey said.

He was treated at a psychiatric hospital after the suicide attempt. After his release, he began to stockpile weapons and took a trip to Colorado to visit the site of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School.

Hilkey said Castillo's thought processes clearly changed after the aborted suicide attempt, shifting from turmoil and chaos in his own life to sacrificing himself and others. He said Castillo felt he was being instructed by God to carry out these actions because he hadn't gone through with suicide.

"His die was cast in his mind," Hilkey testified.

The psychologist said Thursday that Castillo suffers from schizotypal personality disorder – once called borderline schizophrenia – and an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

Two social workers who have interviewed Castillo and a UNC Hospitals psychiatrist who examined him hours after his arrest also have testified this week that Castillo was psychotic at the time of the shootings.

"Every clinician who's seen him has diagnosed him with a psychotic disorder," Hilkey said Friday. "There is adequate and ample documentation on record."

Woodall noted Castillo had homicidal thoughts toward his National Guard drill sergeants a year before the shootings, but Hilkey said he never acted on those thoughts.

He agreed with Woodall's assessment that Castillo equated the verbal abuse dished out by the drill sergeants with the abuse he suffered for years at the hands of his domineering father. Still, Hilkey said, Castillo had competing emotions about his father, noting he loved Rafael Castillo but was angry about the abuse.

"He was very ambivalent about his feelings toward his father," he testified.

Woodall also has pointed out the extensive planning that went into the shootings, including the home videos Castillo made to announce his intentions and reasoning.

Bellard agreed with Woodall that Castillo wanted the notoriety the Columbine High shooters and other school shooting suspects received, but he said Castillo's mental illness "deeply influenced" his planning for the shootings.

"I don't think the planning took place in a rational way," he said.


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  • shortcake53 Aug 14, 2009

    wow, i guess Jurydoc got to use all his fancy words that time.

  • jurydoc Aug 14, 2009

    There is no "getting away with murder" even if one is "successful" with an insanity defense. They are NOT set free. They are confined to a secure mental health facility until such time as they are deemed not insane. The odds of that are very small. Read "On Being Sane in Insane Places." BTW, LEGAL insanity is quite different from the common usage of the term. It requires significantly more than showing the person was mentally ill or impaired. And, BTW, it is relevant ONLY to state of mind at the time the crime was committed. If he is currently being treated with medication and has mitigated his illness, it doesn't matter to mental state at the time of the crime. And the "not guilty" part of a NGRI, is solely a legal determination based on the absence of mens rea which is REQUIRED for the crime of murder to be found. It does NOT mean the actus reus (guilty act) was not committed, just the requisite mental state was not there. He WILL be locked away. Verdict will simply determine where.

  • emeraldangeleyes Aug 14, 2009

    i think North Carolina should throw him in jail for life, he could have killed kids at that high school! he killed his father, and there is no reason on this earth for him to kill his father.

  • shortcake53 Aug 14, 2009

    mocena, my point is that he is hiding behind an insanity plea, and that he DID know exactly what he was doing. Now hes trying to get away with cold blooded murder, and the only insane part is if they let him.

  • shortcake53 Aug 14, 2009

    mocena, the fact that you CAN understand and defend him worries me a great deal. I hope you seek professional help before we see you on trial too.

  • mocena Aug 14, 2009

    shortcake53- How can they not know that it's wrong? That's what the insanity defense is about! He didn't know BECAUSE HE IS A SICK PERSON. I don't know how you can ask that question and know how unthinkable his actions are AND think he isn't insane.

  • shortcake53 Aug 14, 2009

    I find it very difficult to believe that people can commit such crimes and not know they did something wrong. How can you NOT know? Do they see the rest of us running around shooting people, no, so therefore it must not be the right thing to do...
    I think this "Innocent by reason of insanity" is a load of bull. He planned this, then went to the school to hurt more innocent people, this is just cold blooded, not insanity.

  • ONEHARDHEAD Aug 14, 2009

    An insanity defense is in itself insane. Of course he was insane- sane people don't do that stuff! That doesn't mean his victims are any less dead, nor does it make him any less guilty. If he agrees that he knew it was illegal, fry him. Moral issues are a moot point in a court of law, and simply try to muddy the waters with a jury.

  • SalemWWX Aug 14, 2009

    At the risk of sounding cold, I really don't care if someone is insane, depressed, drunk, high, or just generally feeling dumped-on when they go out and kill people. My theory is that they're dangerous, the next time they're in a bad mood it could be someone I care about, so I'd just as soon go ahead and clear some space in society for someone that might actually have a positive contribution to make....I don't see any point in "life without the possibility of parole" or just life in prison for that matter. They're no longer going to provide any worth to society, get them out of here. If the prosecutor needs something to use as an incentive, use "we can take you out painlessly, or we can torture you to until you die". I've had enough....it's time to start worrying about the people who try to do the right thing in this world and take out the trash....

  • mochabrown Aug 14, 2009

    My thing is if you know you were abuse as a child, be it verbal, physical, that's all the more reason you would not want to harm anyone else.

    Some of these reasons for pleading insane is getting out of hand. If you KNOW how to go and get a weapon and KNOW how to use said weapon, KNOWING it will bring harm to a person, how can you NOT KNOW what you are doing. Surely after Castillo saw what happened at Columbine, that would have been enough reason(s) for him NOT to do what he did. His acts were premeditated.