Castillo won’t be executed — (News Observer)

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News Observer

BY JESSICA ROCHA Staff Writer

May 24, 2007

The DA won’t seek the death penalty against a teenage shooting suspect

HILLSBOROUGH — Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against Alvaro Rafael Castillo, the Columbine-obsessed teenager accused of killing his father and opening fire at his old high school last August.

Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall said Wednesday he decided against pursuing the death penalty after looking at the evidence and speaking with Castillo’s mother, who didn’t want to see her son put to death.

Castillo’s attorney, Public Defender James Williams, was pleased.

“The death penalty … should be reserved for the worst of the worst, and Alvaro Castillo did not fit that category,” he said.

Williams said his client was only 18 years old at the time of the shooting, not 19 as some incorrect court records state. He also suffers from “debilitating mental illness.”

Last summer Castillo said in a videotape sent to The Chapel Hill News that he had shot his father, Rafael Huezo Castillo, 65, inside the family’s house in rural Orange County. That same day, August 30, he drove to Orange High School about lunchtime, set off some firecrackers or smoke bombs in the parking lot, and opened fire on the school with a rifle and sawed-off shotgun.

Two students were injured — a bullet grazed one person’s shoulder, and broken glass fell on another — but neither required hospitalization.

Within minutes, a student resource officer and driver’s education teacher stopped Castillo after at least one of his guns apparently jammed.

After his arrest, investigators learned Castillo had an obsession with the 1999 Columbine high school massacre in which two Colorado students walked through school, killing 13 before killing themselves.

Hours before his own attack, Orange County sheriff’s deputies say, Castillo e-mailed the Columbine principal to tell him of his plans to execute a similar attack in North Carolina.

In statements to the media, including a letter and the video sent to The Chapel Hill News, Castillo has said he was subjected to images of sex and violence starting at a young age, and that his father abused the family. He said he sent the video and letter so the world could look into the mind of a “depressed and traumatized individual.” ”

I know I am insane. Ever since I was young, I knew there was something wrong with me,” Castillo wrote to the newspaper in a letter dated Aug. 29, the day before his father was killed.

He ended the note saying, “I will die. I have wanted to die for years. I’m sorry.”

Castillo was hospitalized for having suicidal thoughts the April before his attack.  At that time, Orange County sheriff’s deputies seized a shotgun from him.

After the August attack, deputies seized pills and several empty bottles of the antidepressant Citalopram, according to a search warrant.

Williams said he believes his client’s mental illness was not adequately treated leading up to the shooting.

Castillo is being held in safe keeping in Raleigh’s Central Prison without bail. He has periodically been on suicide watch, Williams said, and currently is being treated for his mental illness.