Castillo attorneys seek to block statements in murder case
A district court judge is considering a motion to prevent the use of statements from Michelle Castillo in the murder trial of a Glenwood woman accused as an accomplice in the 2016 slaying of Blanca Salas-Jurado.
Investigators say that Castillo helped her boyfriend, Gustavo Olivo-Tellez, kill his estranged wife, who lived in an apartment south of Glenwood Springs, and that she helped him evade authorities by fleeing to Grand Junction. Olivo-Tellez, who is accused as the gunman, is also facing first-degree murder.
The defense has filed a motion to suppress statements that Castillo made during a couple of interviews with investigators after the homicide, claiming there were problems with the way investigators handled those interviews.
Her attorneys are asking the judge to throw out all these statements, saying that they were the product of a “custodial interrogation,” and though Castillo signed a Miranda rights waiver, that it was not adequate. “Ms. Castillo was not free to leave, and it was emphasized to her that her charges would be more serious if she did not submit to the questioning,” the defense wrote in its motion. She “did not knowingly, intelligently or voluntarily waive her Miranda rights and her statements in both interrogations were involuntary. She was told she was not under arrest although she was in custody.”
The prosecution asserted that there was nothing wrong with investigators’ interview process. Deputy District Attorney Matthew Barrett reviewed both of these interviews with two investigators at a hearing Thursday. Both testified that Castillo signed Miranda waivers on both occasions, and that during the interviews investigators made no demands, orders, threats or promises. Barrett said that the defendant indeed made her statements “knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily.”
The first interview occurred on the day law enforcement found Castillo and Olivo-Tellez at the Clarion Inn in Grand Junction, on Oct. 8. Castillo was taken to the Grand Junction Police Department to speak with police, where she signed a Miranda Rights waiver and answered investigators’ questions for nearly seven hours.
For several hours she denied any knowledge of the shooting, according to an arrest report. But she eventually told investigators that, at the Clarion Inn, Olivo-Tellez told her that he shot Salas-Jurado.
The defense also asserted that, during the second interview, Castillo was represented by the public defender’s office as an in-custody defendant, as the public defender’s office was in the process of withdrawing from the case due to a conflict. And because she was interviewed without her attorney, that interview violated her constitutional rights. The prosecution, however, argued that the entry of appearance of the public defender wasn’t filed until after that interview and that her constitutional right to have defense counsel present didn’t apply until she was formally charged.
The defense also wants to see the court suppress statements she made while being booked into jail.
A Mesa County detentions deputy who booked Castillo into jail testified that, while she was being processed, the defendant spontaneously said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do this. I can’t believe I did this,” repeatedly.
The prosecution has also filed a notice of intent to introduce “residual hearsay” at the trial, and the judge will eventually have to rule on whether to allow it.
Specifically, prosecutors want to use statements that Olivo-Tellez’s sister-in-law says that he made the day they arrived in Grand Junction. Investigators say that Olivo-Tellez and Castillo went to his brother’s and sister-in-law’s house when they got to Grand Junction, and that Olivo-Tellez told the sister-in-law, in details matching the crime scene, that he’d killed Salas-Jurado. At that time Castillo signaled with her finger across her throat, according to an arrest report.
Typically hearsay is inadmissible at trial, but since Olivo-Tellez is unlikely to testify to these statements, the prosecution is seeking to use his sister-in-law’s account of his statements.
Those statements go toward the issue of what Castillo knew and when she knew it, which are critical in this case, said District Attorney Jeff Cheney. The sister-in-law reported that Castillo was present when Olivo-Tellez made these statements, so they would counter Castillo’s interview with law enforcement, during which she claimed not to have learned about the shooting until they were at the Clarion Inn. And the prosecution plans to pair that information with their account of Castillo’s behavior surrounding Salas-Jurado’s death: that Castillo drove Olivo-Tellez from Denver to Glenwood Springs, that she purchased the ammunition used in the homicide, that she joined him in driving away to Grand Junction and that she attempted to get them a hotel room under a different name.
Castillo’s 15-day trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 8.