Local News

Orange school shooter: 'Now I realize what I did was wrong'

Posted August 21, 2009 4:40 p.m. EDT
Updated August 22, 2009 6:38 a.m. EDT

— A jury on Friday found an Orange County man guilty of killing his father and shooting at Orange High School three years ago.

Jurors deliberated almost seven hours before convicting Alvaro Castillo on 10 charges: first-degree murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, two counts of having a weapon on educational property, three counts of possessing weapons of mass destruction and one count each of firing into occupied property and discharging a weapon on educational property.

Castillo, 22, was arrested Aug. 30, 2006, after he drove to Orange High with a cache of weapons and opened fire. Two students were injured in the school shooting, which ended when school personnel tackled him.

While they were investigating the shooting, Orange County deputies discovered the body of Castillo's father, Rafael Huezo Castillo, in the family's home. He had been shot several times.

"I know that, as a result of my actions, I shocked and hurt a lot of people. That wasn't my intention. I simply wanted to help," Castillo said before he was sentenced. "Now I realize that what I did was wrong, and I'm willing to do whatever is necessary."

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour sentenced Castillo to the mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole for murder. He imposed two consecutive sentences of 25 to 39 months each on the assault with a deadly weapon charges, and he recommended that Castillo receive mental health treatment in prison.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall requested the consecutive sentences, calling the shootings "very brutal crimes."

Castillo had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to all charges, and his lawyers presented testimony during the three-week trial from mental health experts and social workers who said he was psychotic at the time of the shootings.

The defense witnesses testified that Castillo was obsessed with school shootings, especially the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, and that he had the delusion that he was saving people from lives of worldly pain and suffering by shooting them.

After the sentencing, defense attorney James Williams said he was disappointed with the verdict, saying there was plenty of evidence that Castillo has suffered from mental illness for several years.

"This is a case where someone fell through the cracks in a lot of respects," he said.

Woodall argued during the trial that Castillo planned the attacks to gain notoriety and join the ranks of infamous school shooters. He showed jurors hours of videotapes Castillo made in the weeks before the shootings in which he explained his reasons for planning and carrying out the attacks.

Woodall said the videos and journals Castillo kept demonstrated he knew what he was doing, and Castillo's repeated attempts to seek forgiveness from his family showed he knew what he did was wrong.

"He wants fame. He's got to kill somebody, and he's got to do in a way that gets attention," Woodall told jurors in his closing argument Thursday.

Jurors reviewed two of the videos, as well as reports filed by mental health experts for both the prosecution and defense, during their deliberations.

Defense attorney James Williams contended that the planning was driven by Castillo's belief that God had spared him in a failed suicide attempt in April 2006 to carry out a grander plan.

“The premise that someone sick or delusional can’t plan is totally untenable,” Williams said during his closing argument. “He had to get done what he felt God wanted him to do.”

Williams said Castillo developed a mental illness to "psychically survive" verbal and physical abuse his domineering father dished out to everyone in the family.

Woodall said the defense "demonized" Rafael Castillo to make his death easier for jurors to excuse. He said the fact that Rafael Castillo was shot five times in the face showed his son wanted to exact revenge on him, not save him from misery.

"We need to think about Rafael Castillo," he said after the sentencing. "He was brutally murdered, and he did not deserve that."