Local News

Castillo wanted sacrifice, defense attorney says

Posted August 3, 2009 9:51 a.m. EDT
Updated August 4, 2009 8:46 a.m. EDT

— A man accused of killing his father and then opening fire outside Orange High School in 2006 was “severely mentally ill” and should not be found guilty, a defense attorney argued in opening statements at Alvaro Rafael Castillo’s trial Monday.

Castillo, 22, of Hillsborough, is charged with fatally shooting his father, Rafael Huezo Castillo, on Aug. 30, 2006, driving to Orange High and firing at the school. Two students suffered minor injuries before the gunman was tackled by school personnel.

Castillo has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to all charges.

"He thought he had been chosen by God to sacrifice his father and others,” said defense attorney James Williams.

Castillo had a tough childhood, Williams said, which involved "chaos and discord in the family, threats of violence" and problems with seeing his father punish his mother.

In his opening statements, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall gave jurors a synopsis of the day of the shooting and what Castillo is accused of doing.

"As soon as (Castillo) was subdued, he began making spontaneous statements," Woodall said. "He told officers that he had killed his father earlier in the day."

Authorities drove to the family home and found the body of Rafael Huezo Castillo covered in a sheet. He was fatally shot seven times – six times in the face and once in the shoulder near his neck, Woodall said.

The district attorney warned jurors that some of the evidence he plans to present will be difficult for them to see. He also outlined much of what was found in a journal apparently written by Castillo.

"He documents almost every (weapon) he purchased. He even put receipts in the journal," Woodall said. "He writes extensively about (Columbine High School shooter) Eric Harris and the mixed feelings he had."

Woodall said Castillo had "uneasiness about his sexuality" and his feelings for Harris.

Castillo publicly acknowledged after his arrest that he was obsessed with the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. Before the shooting, he sent an e-mail to the principal at Columbine High to announce his intention to commit a similar act and mailed a videotaped confession to a Chapel Hill newspaper.

Since his arrest, he has received treatment at Central Prison and Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh for mental issues. In February, Judge Allen Baddour ruled that he was competent to assist in his defense at trial.

Testimony began with witnesses who were at the school that day.

“I saw a man in a trench coat,” Beth Creech recalled. “He started to lower the gun towards the school and towards the kids.”

"We heard a serious of popping noises,” Michael Byers said.

Williams said Castillo struggled with depression and tried to kill himself before the attacks.

After police subdued him outside the school, witnesses recalled hearing him say the same thing over and over.

"He was asking, ‘Please kill me. I want to die. Please kill me,’” said then-principal Jeff Dishmon.

Castillo's trial is expected to last into next week.