Minnesota appeals court upholds Castillo-Alvarez conviction
Clay County Jail's longest resident will remain behind bars
An attempt by Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez to challenge his convictions of kidnapping and second degree intentional murder in the Minnesota Court of Appeals failed Monday.
In addition to an appeal claiming double jeopardy, Castillo-Alvarez's filed challenges suggesting the district court erred in admitting his unrecorded statement to law enforcement; admitted hearsay statements without identifying the exception under which they were admissible; imposed consecutive sentences and an upward durational departure without making required findings; and ordered him to pay costs or protection, transcript costs and witness fees.
In the opinion of the Appeals Court judges: "Because Castillo-Alvarez's prosecution did not violate his double jeopardy rights and because the record is sufficient to support the district court's rulings on the hearsay and sentencing issues, we affirm the convictions and sentence."
Regarding payment of costs, the appellate judges affirmed the payment of all costs, with the exception of costs associated with preparing a pretrial transcript, which they reversed.
The reversal involved a cost-of-prosecution order of $918 for a pretrial transcript that was not used as an exhibit in trial.
Castillo-Alvarez, who has the longest jail occupancy in Clay County history, received the two maximum sentences from Judge Linda S. Titus in Jackson County Courthouse in Jackson, Minn., on May 5, 2011, for his role in the kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Gregory "Sky" Erickson on June 6, 1997.
On the charge of second degree murder, Titus sentenced Castillo-Alvarez to 40 years, of which he must serve at least two thirds. He was also sentenced to the maximum four years for kidnapping.
Titus also ruled the sentences be served consecutively.
The former Estherville business operator was turned over to the Minnesota Department of Corrections to begin his incarceration. The judge ordered Castillo-Alvarez be credited with all time served in Clay County and Minnesota since Oct. 2, 2006.
Erickson was beaten at a Spencer apartment on June 6, 1997, and taken to see Castillo-Alvarez at his restaurant.
Gang members detained Erickson against his will and gathered again in nearby Fort Defiance State Park. They took Erickson to a Dickinson County location, about three miles north of Superior, and he was beaten again. They then took him to an abandoned farmhouse in Petersburg Township, in Jackson County.
Gang enforcer Luis Lua of Estherville is serving a life sentence for firing the fatal bullet at the farmhouse. The location was discovered on June 14, 1997 and made it possible for Minnesota authorities to file charges against Castillo-Alvarez as someone who "aided advised, counseled or conspired," with others in the abduction, assault and murder.
Castillo-Alvarez fled to Mexico as co-conspirators were questioned and arrested. The murder weapon was found in the ceiling tiles of his restaurant, according to past testimony.
Federal charges were initially filed against Castillo-Alvarez in 1997, but treaty terms between the United States and Mexico prevented his extradition. Mexican authorities would not extradite one of its citizens if that person faced life in prison or the death penalty in the United States.
The Clay County Attorney's Office continued to work with Mexican authorities to find Castillo-Alvarez. They filed state charges in September 2004 in an attempt to bring Castillo-Alvarez back to Iowa with penalties more agreeable to the Mexican government. He was detained and extradited to Iowa in September 2006, but the 2004 filings started the clock on the right Castillo-Alvarez has to a speedy trial.
The Iowa Court of Appeals threw out convictions of second degree murder, second degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony on those grounds.
Before Castillo-Alvarez could be released from Newton Correction Facility in Iowa, Clay County filed charges unrelated to the kidnapping and murder allegations, associated with illegal conduct during his stay at the Clay County Jail. While at Clay County Jail for the second time, Minnesota completed the extradition process and he was taken to stand trial for the murder a second time.