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Jury sentences convicted killer in Southeast Side hacking death to 70 years in prison

San Antonio Express News logo San Antonio Express News 8/17/2022 By Jacob Beltran, Staff writer

Rafael Castillo, convicted of murder for severing a woman’s hands with a machete and driving an ax into her skull after she argued with him in the house they shared with other methamphetamine users, was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

The jury took less than an hour to reach the sentence Wednesday. Castillo, 27, was not ordered to pay a fine and will receive credit for time served in jail.

On Tuesday, the jury took 65 minutes to find Castillo guilty in the gruesome slaying of Nicole Perry on Nov. 19, 2020. A public works crew found Perry’s body weeks later, dumped along W.W. White Road near Higdon Road. Witnesses told jurors they saw him use a machete to chop off her hands, which were never found.

To bolster arguments for a long sentence, prosecutors produced testimony from an expert witness regarding Castillo’s gang affiliation. Jurors also heard the defendant’s family and friends call Castillo a caring person with a sense of humor.

Anthony Rodriguez, an investigator with the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, testified that Castillo is a member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang, based on witness statements and three tattoos on his back and hands.

Photos were displayed of a shirtless Castillo as the prosecution cycled through the tattoos. One was of a skull wearing a fedora with a clock in its mouth, its hands covering the Roman numerals X and III, the number corresponding with the 13th letter of the alphabet “M,” Rodriguez said.

The defense called one of Castillo’s sisters, Nohemi Martinez, 35. She said Castillo was born and raised in San Antonio and lived with his parents his entire life. The house was small and there wasn’t enough room for everyone, she said, recalling the times she would visit Castillo at the home when he was under house arrest.

Castillo has one child and was also taking care of two other children of whom he was not the biological father, according to testimony. He has been married twice, and is separated from his current wife.

Asked about drug usage and whether he was a member of the Mexican Mafia, Martinez — like three others who would also testify on his behalf — said she was unaware of Castillo’s involvement in either.

“We’re Christians, and at home we don’t do that,” she said, referring to Castillo’s drug use. She described a God fearing family, one that practiced Bible study daily and had kept Castillo in church and Bible school as he grew up.

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Sarai Robledo, a family friend who met Castillo through the church, described “Rafi” as a friendly man who liked jokes. During his time in house arrest with his parents, she would play loteria, a game similar to bingo, and socialize with him.

“I love the family and I love him like my own son,” Robledo said.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Matt Allen asked the jury to consider the testimony of family and friends, saying Castillo came from a supportive household.

“His family didn’t come to give excuses,” he said.

Castillo had been in a place where people used meth for days, which can cause hallucinations, Allen said.

Prosecutor Jennifer McDaniel said that she usually asks juries to deliberate by starting at the midway point of the five to 99 year sentence range for murder, working upward for horrific aspects of the case and downward for any mitigating circumstances.

But there was nothing to mitigate Castillo’s sentence, McDaniel said. Besides the “awful” thing he did to Perry, he had also wronged his own family, who would have supported him with his substance abuse, she said.

“He has a good, kind family and he joined the Mexican Mafia,” McDaniel said. “There’s no one to blame but him.”

She grabbed a stack of photos of Perry’s body, which had been displayed during the trial, and said they were there for the jury to examine once more as they deliberated his sentence.

“Can any of us imagine a worse ending for anybody than that?” McDaniel asked of Perry’s fate.

After the sentence was read, a representative of the District Attorney’s Office read two victim impact statements submitted by Perry’s sister and family.

Perry’s sister wrote that there was a “special place in hell” for people who commit such slaughter, recounting the way her sister was killed.

“The incident will now and forever be on my mind until the day I take my last breath,” she wrote.

Her family wrote that Perry was attempting to reconnect with her oldest daughter when she was killed. She had been out of her life in recent years.

“Our prayer is that you will feel the heavy weight of remorse for your actions,” the family wrote. Castillo stood expressionless looking down at the floor as the statements were read.


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