Teen gets 14 years for Independence Pass beating
The Aspen teen who pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in connection with the beating of a runaway girl last fall on Independence Pass was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
But Jaime Castro, who has no prior criminal record, could be released after five years if he can successfully complete the youth offender program in Pueblo, Judge James Boyd ruled Monday.
Castro had originally been charged with attempted murder in the case, which involved the then-17-year-old Castro and two runaways from California. Castro, now 18, was charged as an adult.
Castro and his co-assailant in the case, Cinthia Romero, who is still awaiting trial, met over the Internet, according to court records. Romero allegedly convinced her friend, a 16-year-old neighbor from her hometown of Bakersfield, Calif., to run away to Aspen late last summer.
As Castro and Romero became romantically involved, however, the friend “became something of a third wheel,” Deputy District Attorney Andrew Heyl said at yesterday’s hearing. After the friend decided to turn herself into police as a runaway in order to get back to California, Castro and Romero set a plot in motion that may well have turned deadly.
Castro and Romero lured the victim, who is not being named because she’s a juvenile, into a car and drove up the pass. At mile marker 42 they pulled over and Castro dragged the victim from the car.
“While he held her, Cynthia Romero took out a golf club that was in the car and struck her,” Heyl said. Once the victim was on the ground, Castro reportedly took the golf club and began to beat her.
The beating was interrupted shortly after it began by a passing motorist who stopped after the victim ran out into the middle of the road. “If it wasn’t for the fact that a good Samaritan happened by and stopped, this likely would have been a homicide,” Heyl said.
The district attorney’s office wanted Castro to be sentenced to the maximum, 24 years in prison with the provision that he could be released after six years if he completed the youth offender program.
Noting Castro’s clean record and support from his family and employer, Public Defender Greg Greer urged the court to sentence Castro to 10 years in prison with the opportunity to be released after three years in the youth offender program.
“Jaime has worked for us for a year and was one of the best employees I ever had,” Stage Three Theater Manager David Nolan said, citing Castro’s dependability, loyalty and willingness to confess to mistakes. Castro’s mother, Ignacia Castro, added that her son had never been in trouble before.
The judge split the difference, taking into account both the seriousness of the crime and the promise that once shined on Castro’s life. “It appears that you had positive thing going for you in your life when you committed this crime,” Boyd said.
Boyd also conceded the victim’s recovery appears to be nearly complete, despite the fact she suffered two concussions from the beating. But, he added, “The fact that the victim is recovering is not by any choice you made. Nor is the fact that she survived.”
Both attorneys and the judge agreed that Castro faces a difficult task in completing the youth offender program, which requires participants to finish high school and adhere to strict codes of conduct for their entire term.
“The attrition rate in my experience exceeds the success rate,” Greer said. If Castro fails to make it through the youth offender program, he’ll likely be locked up until his early 30s.
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