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CASTRO TO STAND TRIAL IN MURDER COPS BELIEVE WIFE HAD ACCOMPLICES.

Byline: CAROL ROCK Staff Writer

SAN FERNANDO - A Canyon Country woman was ordered Tuesday to stand trial for the murder of her husband, charges that make her eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

After three days of testimony in a preliminary hearing, Judge Burt Pines ordered Esperanza Castro be tried on counts of murder and conspiracy with special circumstances.

Castro is the only suspect in custody right now and is being held on $2 million bail. But investigators admit that they are still looking for at least two other individuals who they believe helped her complete the crime.

``Our investigation continues,'' said homicide detective Richard Lopez. ``We believe she had as-yet-unidentified accomplices. and they know who they are.''

Testimony highlighted the involvement of at least two others. One was described as ``a tall, skinny, dark-skinned guy'' who one witness said he saw helping Castro carry a heavy black plastic garbage bag to Ramon Castro's work truck. The other was a young man wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt who drove a black car, with Esperanza Castro as a passenger, hours before Ramon Castro's body was found in his abandoned pickup truck.

Detectives have said that since Castro was found dead on March 23, and his wife was arrested the next morning, they don't believe she acted alone.

Lopez, who testified Tuesday, said that blood smears on the work truck were consistent with a neighbor's testimony regarding a large, unwieldy bag that Esperanza and her male companion loaded into the passenger compartment of the truck.

``There were blood smears on both the driver- and passenger-side doors, on the tailgate, the bumper and the tow bar,'' Lopez told the court. Inside the truck, Lopez said, there was blood on the seat, the dashboard, the floor mats and the steering wheel.

He also said that Ramon Castro's body had two gloved handprints on its back, which might have been left as the body was rolled into the bed of the truck to close the tailgate.

The .380-caliber automatic handgun used to shoot Castro at the Sierra Highway location where his body was found has not been located. Lopez said that casings found at that location match two bullets recovered from Castro's body. Linens from the bed where investigators believe Castro was bludgeoned also were not found.

A bloodied pipe with tool marks similar to those found on Castro's body was found in the bed of the landscaping truck. Lopez said that the pipe has not yet been fingerprinted.Castro is scheduled to return May 2 to court for arraignment.

carol.rock(at)dailynews.com

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 19, 2006
Words:433
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