Castillo charged as murder accomplice
Arrested last year in connection to an October homicide, Michelle Castillo’s case has recently become even more severe, as prosecutors have yanked a plea agreement and added a new charge of first-degree murder.
Castillo, 24, was arrested alongside her boyfriend, Gustavo Olivo-Tellez, after police discovered a homicide south of Glenwood Springs and began searching for the perpetrator. After Castillo and Olivo-Tellez bought ammunition on the Front Range and drove to Glenwood Springs, investigators say Olivo-Tellez shot his estranged wife multiple times in her apartment.
Castillo was initially charged as an accessory to the crime after the fact, in the death of Blanca Jurado Salas. But the prosecution’s theory has changed, and she is now being charged as an accomplice to the crime, said District Attorney Jeff Cheney.
This first-degree murder charge is being prosecuted under the theory that Castillo was not merely an accessory to the crime but an accomplice.
Prosecutors have said that Castillo had purchased the ammunition, waited at a restaurant while Olivo-Tellez shot the victim and then accompanied him as he fled to Grand Junction. Deputy district attorneys have also said that she pulled about $1,000 out of an ATM while they were heading out of town.
She pleaded guilty March 14 to the charge of accessory to first degree murder. And her plea deal required her to give a truthful narrative to investigators of the events of the crime, said Cheney.
Investigators apparently didn’t believe that was happening at the interview and as a result pulled the plea agreement. Cheney said he could not point out what specific statements in that interview led prosecutors to rescind the plea agreement.
“The People terminated the interview after repeated warnings that the information law enforcement was receiving was, in law enforcement’s belief, not credible,” prosecutors wrote in their notice to withdraw the plea agreement. “Thus, the People have determined that Defendant’s statements pursuant to the terms of the agreement were not satisfactory, complete or truthful.”
Choosing his words carefully, Cheney said, “We believed we had a good faith legal basis to withdraw from the plea agreement. And after additional analysis and investigation, we chose to charge her with murder.”
Though the DA said he couldn’t share many details that led prosecutors to these steps, much of that information will likely come out in Castillo’s preliminary hearing, he said.
Kathy Goudy, appointed to represent Castillo as alternate defense counsel, objected to the DA’s attempt to back out of the plea agreement. And she requested the evidentiary hearing.
In a filed response to the court, Goudy wrote that the prosecution failed “to provide any facts showing any possible breach” of the plea agreement.
Though the prosecution argued that withdrawing the plea was in its rights and required no further hearing, Goudy countered that, “Because of the constitutional context in which this Court must examine the facts and apply the law, the motion requires an evidentiary hearing to flesh out exactly what statements were deemed unsatisfactory, if any,” wrote Goudy.
“Fairness will not occur here if the plea is allowed to be withdrawn for the people’s arbitrary and undeclared reasons,” she wrote.
So before a preliminary hearing happens, prosecutors will have to get the OK from Judge John Neiley to rescind the plea agreement. Neiley scheduled a hearing for May 1 to review the DA’s withdrawal of the plea agreement. At that hearing the judge could decide to bind the prosecution to its plea agreement, or allow it to withdraw.
Cases like these often evolve over time; the investigation and gathering of evidence doesn’t stop just because charges are filed, said Cheney. New charges being filed as the case progresses through the criminal justice system is pretty normal, he said.