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Castillo-Alvarez: Guilty! – Sentencing set for March 4 in Clay County

By Staff | Jan 26, 2008

EMMETSBURG–Third Judicial District Court Judge Judge Don E. Courtney delivered three guilty verdicts to Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez in Iowa District Court in Palo Alto County Friday afternoon.

The defendant, flanked by his attorney and interpreter, showed no emotion when the guilty verdicts were rendered:

n Murder in the Second Degree, in violation of Iowa Code section 707.3.

n Kidnapping in the Second Degree, in violation of Iowa Code section 710.3.

n Conspiracy to commit a forcible felony, in violation of Iowa Code sections 706.1 and 706.3.

Court documentation released Friday, specific to the murder in the second-degree charge, notes “the State must prove all of the following elements of Murder in the Second Degree:

n On or about June 6, 1997, the defendant, Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez, a/k/a Ricardo Castillo, aided and abetted Luis Lua in the shooting of Gregory Sky Erickson.

n Gregory Sky Erickson died as a result of being shot.

n The defendant and Luis Lua acted with malice aforethought.”

Court records state the kidnapping in the second degree is a “specific intent crime.”

Where defendant’s guilt for a specific intent crime is based on aiding and abetting the court has ruled, “If specific intent is an element of the crime charged, a person may be convicted on a theory of aiding and abetting if the person participates either with the requisite intent or with the knowledge that the principal possesses the required intent.”

The elements based on aiding and abetting are:

n “… the defendant aided and abetted Luis Lua, Aurelio Ortiz, Shawn Knakmuhs, Ben Alden, Juan Astello and Ramiro Astello in (a) removing Gregory Sky Erickson from Spencer to Estherville, and (b) thereafter removing Gregory Sky Erickson from Estherville to rural Emmet County and then to Jackson County, Minnesota.”

The record stated, “The court is convinced that the drug debt Sky incurred with Lua and the defendant was the motive for the kidnapping. The defendant supplied the .380 Lorcin pistol that was used throughout the kidnapping. The defendant agreed to supply two pounds of marijuana to (Eric) Sebasta through Lua because Sky was being replaced in the drug distribution network, Sky was brought to the defendant’s restaurant with a bag over his head, and he issued instructions to take him out in the country.”

The second point offered on the kidnapping charge is that Castillo-Alvarez “aided and abetted Luis Lua, Aurelio Ortiz, Shawn Knakmuhs, Ben Alden, Juan Astello and Ramiro Astello

– with the specific intent that serious injury be inflicted on Gregory Sky Erickson; or

– knowing that Luis Lua had the specific intent to inflict serious injury on Gregory Sky Erickson.”

The third point noted by the court is that the “defendant knew neither he nor any of his co-participants had the consent of the victim to do so.”

Point four states “Luis Lua was armed with a dangerous weapon at the time Gregory Sky Erickson was removed.”

Further notes read, “The Court finds the State of Iowa has proven the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of kidnapping in the second degree based on aiding and abetting.”

On the last charge, the state is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a conspiracy to commit a forcible felony.

Testimony proved that “on or about the 6th day of June 1997, the defendant … agreed with Luis Lua, Aurelio Ortiz, Shawn Knakmuhs, Ben Alden, Juan Astello and Ramiro Astello that one or more of them would commit the crimes of trafficking in illegal controlled substance, kidnapping and felonious assault and/or murder.”

It was also proven the

n “Defendant entered into the agreement with the intent to promote or facilitate trafficking in illegal substances, and kidnapping, and serious injury or murder.”

n “The defendant, or Luis Lua, Shawn Knakmuhs, or Aurelio Ortiz, or Ben Alden or Juan Astello or Ramiro Astello committed an overt act.”

n “Neither Luis Lua nor Shawn Knakmuhs nor Aurelio Ortiz nor Ben Alden nor Juan Astello nor Ramiro Astello were law enforcement agents investigating drug trafficking, kidnapping, and/or murder or assisting law enforcement agents in the investigation when the conspiracy began.”

The court concluded “the defendant’s argument that the events in this case, beginning with the delivery of illegal drugs, continuing through Sky’s failure to pay the network and ending in Sky’s death must be divided into separate, independent and unrelated occurrences ignores that a network of individuals, headed by the defendant, undertook to distribute illegal drugs for profit. When Sky was fronted drugs and failed to pay, the conspirators sought to obtain payment by threats and acts of violence and when these did not succeed, Sky Erickson was murdered.

This court concludes that the State has proven each of the elements of Conspiracy to Commit a Forcible Felony beyond a reasonable doubt, in violation of sections 706.1 and 706.3 of the Iowa Code.”

The judge ordered the defendant must appear for sentencing in the District Court of Iowa in and for Clay County at Spencer at 10 a.m. on March 4.