Man Found Guilty Of Murder In Death Of 5-Year-Old Vernon Girl

Updated Wednesday 18th, 2011 at 7:30pm

Convicted killer 43 year old Tommy Isreal Castro is sentenced to life in prison by a Wilbarger County Jury Tuesday night only after eight minutes of deliberations.   

The punishment phase against convicted killer Castro was in session at the Wilbarger County Court House.  On Tuesday evening, Castro was found guilty of murder in the death of five year old Kati Earnest in Vernon, on July 4th, 2009. 

District Attorney Staley Heatly stated, "Tommy Castro should never see the light of day again.  he has spent the last twenty years of his life brutalizing women and children and it is finally time for him to pay the price." 

At the punishment phase of the trial, Heatly called five different women that had been previous victims of Castro.  They all reported a history of domestic violence involving the defendant.  The first witness presented by the State at punishment was assaulted by Castro as early as 1992.  The last witness testified that she was assaulted by Castro in 2008.  The other women were assaulted sometime in between those years. 

Heatly states, "the jury got to hear from a series of women that were beaten by the defendant over the last two decades.  This man received great pleasure from dominating and controlling others and, thankfully, he will never have the opportunity to do that again."

During the punishment phase, the jurors also got to hear from a thirteen year old boy.  The boy lived with his mother and Tommy Castro between 2007 and 2009.  The boy testified that Castro choked him, beat him, and stepped on him numerous occasions.  When asked by the defense attorney if Castro had ever treated him well, the boy responded, "when he wasn't beating me."

District Attorney Staley Heatly prosecuted the case, while Richard Deaguero of Dallas defended Castro.  District Judge Dan Mike presided over the trial.    

 

Wednesday 18, 2011 at 2pm

A man accused of killing a five-year-old Vernon girl in July 2009 has been found guilty of capitol murder. Tuesday evening, a Wilbarger County jury found 43-year-old Tommy Isreal Castro guilty of murder in the death of Kati Earnest.

On the night of July 4, 2009, Castro and then girlfriend, Kristina Earnest brought Kati's unresponsive body and Kristina's 18 month old son to the Wilbarger General Hospital. Kati was pronounced dead shortly after midnight.

They first told hospital employees Kati drowned in the bath tub.   Hospital staff noticed Kati, Kristina and her son were all covered in bruises.

Kristina confessed to killing her child within days of Kati's death. Castro was first arrested for injury to a child. The charges were later upgraded to capital murder.

A few weeks later, Kristina said she had not killed her daughter, but that she had confessed out of fear of Castro. She said Castro threatened her two remaining living children if she did not take the blame for the murder.

At trial District Attorney Staley Heatly introduced evidence demonstrating that Earnest was the victim of domestic violence and that Castro was actually the perpetrator of the crime. On behalf of the prosecution, Earnest testified that on the day in question, Castro had beaten Kati Earnest because she had urinated in his sports car the night before. According to Earnest, Castro spanked Kati on her bottom with a wooden board, spanked her on her stomach with the board, punched her in the stomach with his fist, and eventually stepped on her abdomen with his full weight. Medical evidence also demonstrated that kati earnest was choked by Castro.

In his case in chief, Heatly called a woman named Shyla Frausto Goodrum. She testified that she had been in a relationship with Castro from early 2007 to late 2008. Goodrum stated that Castro had beaten her 10 year old son by choking him, beating him with a wooden board, and stepping on him. Heatly said that the manner of the crime amounted to a signature of the defendant.

Goodrum and earnest also both testified that Castro was extremely abusive and that he would beat them with belts, punch them, kick them, inspect their genitals to see if they had been cheating and closely monitor all of their activities. Specifically, whenever Castro would leave the living accommodations, he would place scotch tape on the outside of the door in order to see if either woman had left while he was gone.

Earnest originally pleaded guilty to felony injury to a child. However, her attorney and District Attorney Staley Heatly filed concurring motions for new trial after the evidence regarding Frausto and her child surfaced. As a result, Earnest's plea was overturned and she currently remains in the Wilbarger County Jail on the charge of injury to a child by omission.

Castro's trial is expected to conclude on Wednesday afternoon. Wilbarger County District Attorney Staley Heatly is representing the state in the trial while Castro is being represented by Richard Deaguero of Dallas and Earl Griffin of Childress. District Judge Dan Mike Bird is presiding over the case.

See our full coverage of this story including a letter Tommy Castro wrote to Newschannel 6 from jail, by clicking on the links on the left side of this page.