Innocence Lost, A Letter From Jail: Charges Upgraded

We have new information on the charges against Tommy Castro.   Originally he was charged with two counts of injury to a child by omission.  Today - we've learned those charges have been upgraded.

Castro is still charged with injury to a child by act or omission for the abuse of Kati Earnest's younger brother, and is now charged with capital murder in Kati's death.  In Texas, the punishment for capital murder in the death of a child younger than six could range from life in prison without parole to the death penalty.

We've been following this story closely over the past few months. Right now, Castro and Kati's mother are awaiting trial in the Wilbarger County jail.

The mother admits to beating her daughter to death and police say her boyfriend did nothing to stop it. The boyfriend is Tommy Castro and now that man is talking to NewsChannel 6 from behind bars.

Tommy Israel Castro, various mug shots

In February, we took at closer look at Kati Earnest's tragic death and the cracks in the Child Protective Services System.

Kristin Marie Earnest, Kati's mother

Many of you reached out to us after seeing our in-depth story, including the exclusive interview with Kati's grandmother. Now, we are sharing a letter sent solely to our station from one of the people accused of contributing to Kati's death, a letter we've handed to the district attorney's office to help in their investigation.

Grandma Shelley, Kati's grandmother

"She just kept saying no ma'am, you don't understand , she's dead.  Then everything went a little black for me and then my son came over and there were just no words to describe how my son felt, and how I felt and how I still feel today," Shelley Blevins said.

Blevins spoke with us about the tragic death of her granddaughter, Kati Earnest, when our original story aired in February.

Blevins son, Nelson Cardwell, Jr. and Kati's mother, Kristina Earnest, have had a strained relationship ever since their daughter was born.

According to court documents obtained by NewsChannel 6, last July fourth, Kristina Earnest and her boyfriend, Tommy Castro brought Earnest's five year old daughter to the Wilbarger General Hospital.  They claimed she drowned in the tub.

An autopsy later found her cause of death was blunt force trauma to the abdomen.  Earnest eventually admitted to striking her little girl five times with a closed fist.

She is charged with capitol murder.

Kati Earnest, victim

"I can't even wrap my mind around what they did.  I don't understand.  I can't comprehend it," Blevins said.

Shortly before Kati died, Earnest, originally from Amarillo,  had moved her three children to Vernon to live with Castro.

We found out prior to that move, Earnest had two CPS investigations involving her three children.

Both, however, were ruled out because CPS could not find evidence to take action. In our investigation, we talked with a CPS official and the former assistant district attorney for CPS cases in the Wichita County area who now works as a private attorney for families that need assistance with CPS cases.

Our story aired on February 17th, a few days later, Tommy Castro sent Newschannel 6 a letter from the Wilbarger County Jail.

Tommy Israel Castro, mug shot, 2008

In it, he claims our story was only half factual as none of our sources lived with or were around Castro and Earnest during the time they resided at the Vernon apartment.

He writes quote, " You people didn't see through my eyes or walk a mile in my shoes.  your sources provided you "the media" with a hypothesis, "an unproved theory!""

He goes on to talk about history concerning Earnest and her children's three biological fathers or the quote,"countless men that were in these peoples lives before I even came into the picture."

Castro writes, "where was the media, the authorities and other agencies in the couple of months that I saw this mother of three?"

He never gives his side of what happened on that fatal night, but does offer to interview with News Channel 6 only with the permission and presence of his legal representative.

We've continued to try and contact Castro's attorney, Michael Payne, numerous times since receiving his letter on February 23rd, but still have not received any response.

We also tried to contact Castro ourselves, writing him a letter offering to hear his side of the story, but have also not had any response to that.

Castro closes the letter with a passage from the bible, First Corinthians 2:11: For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him.

Now, the Wilbarger County District Attorney's office is asking News Channel 6 for a copy of Castro's letter to use in their investigation.

After receiving Castro's letter, we did some more investigating on his background.  We found  an extensive criminal history, unrelated to this case.

His background dates back to a 1987 conviction of public intoxication. It continues nearly a decade later with a conviction of assault causing bodily injury.

Tommy Israel Castro

In 1998, Castro was convicted of evading arrest and the very next year was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and assault causing bodily injury to a family member.

Last year, Castro was convicted of violation of bond, protective order and had a deferred felony sentence of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. That last incident took place just months before Earnest moved her family in with Castro.

"I don't know anymore what anyone is capable of doing," Blevins said.

We reached out to Blevins again to see what she had to say about Castro's letter,  she was unable to comment, possibly because of the pending case.

The Wilbarger County District Attorney's office said Tommy Castro and Kristina Earnest's trials are both pending at this time.

District Attorney Staley Heatly will be prosecuting them both and we're told Dan Mike Bird will be the judge hearing each of their cases.

By Lindsey Rogers