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Castillo v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eleventh District

April 13, 2017

ARRON JOSHUA CASTILLO, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

         On Appeal from the 441st District Court Midland County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. CR41986

          Panel consists of: Wright, C.J., Willson, J., and Bailey, J.

          OPINION

          JOHN M. BAILEY, JUSTICE

         The jury convicted Arron Joshua Castillo of murder and assessed his punishment at confinement for fifty years in the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Appellant challenges his conviction in five issues on appeal. Appellant's first three issues concern the manner in which the trial court instructed the jury about the accomplice witness rule as it pertained to Deseare Carroll.[1] See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 38.14 (West 2005). In his fourth issue, Appellant contends that the non-accomplice evidence was insufficient to connect Appellant to the offense. In his fifth issue, Appellant asserts that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting hearsay evidence. We affirm.

         Background Facts

         Kyara West, the victim in this case, was the mother of Appellant's two young children, T.W. and I.W. In July 2013, Appellant was living in Lubbock with his girlfriend, Sandy Carroll.[2] West was living in Midland with T.W. and I.W. On the evening of July 9, Appellant, Sandy, and Appellant's two other children arrived in Midland because Appellant had a child support hearing on the morning of July 10 concerning his financial support of T.W. and I.W. Appellant and West attended the hearing at 8:30 a.m. At the hearing, the trial court ordered Appellant to pay monthly child support and awarded Appellant visitation rights.

         Appellant took T.W. and I.W. with him from the hearing to his parents' home in Midland but later returned I.W. to West because he was fussy. That night, at 11:00 p.m., West walked from her apartment to a nearby convenience store. Cell phone records indicated that she received a call from a restricted number at 11:04 p.m. At 11:09 p.m., West placed a phone call to her mother and told her that she was on her way to meet Appellant because Appellant was going to give her some money. At 11:51 p.m., West received a second call from a restricted number.

         At 11:30 p.m., Carmen and Thomas Ezell Jr. returned home to the Midland Village Apartments. Carmen could not park in her usual spot because it was occupied by a tan or beige Tahoe that was backed into the parking space. The Ezells saw what appeared to be two Black males sitting in the vehicle. Thomas testified that the driver had a slender build and that the passenger had a heavy build. After fifteen to twenty minutes, the Ezells heard what Carmen believed to be two gunshots. The Ezells saw a third Black male walk toward the Tahoe from the direction in which the Ezells heard the noise.

         Thomas described the third individual as being approximately six feet tall with a heavy build and frizzy hair. He wore a shirt with diagonal stripes. He had his hand on his leg and appeared to be holding something in his pocket. The third individual got into the backseat of the Tahoe. The Tahoe began to drive away but stopped at the corner. The third individual exited the vehicle, walked back to where he came from, leaned against a tree, looked around, and then returned to the vehicle and reentered it. The Tahoe then drove away. Once the Tahoe was gone, the Ezells walked outside to go check on an elderly neighbor. Shortly after midnight on July 11, the Ezells found West's body in a field next to the apartments, whereupon they called 9-1-1.

         Carroll testified that, at around 10:00 p.m. on July 10, she and her girlfriend went to Appellant's parents' house[3] to visit Appellant. After approximately thirty minutes, Carroll and Appellant used Carroll's orange Avalanche to drive Carroll's girlfriend home. They then picked up Appellant's friend, Carlos Martinez. Martinez had a gun that was wrapped in a white T-shirt that he brought with him.

         After picking up Martinez, Appellant asked Carroll to drive to a convenience store. When they arrived, Appellant asked Carroll for money. Appellant gave Carroll's money to Martinez and instructed him to "go get it." Martinez entered the convenience store and returned a short time later with a receipt for the purchase of prepaid phone minutes. Appellant loaded the minutes onto a blue phone. Carroll had never seen Appellant use this phone before because Appellant usually used an iPhone. Carroll, Martinez, and Appellant then returned to Appellant's house.

         At approximately 11:00 p.m., Appellant asked Carroll to give him a ride to West's apartment. Appellant told Carroll that he wanted to give West some money for their children. Carroll did not want to take her vehicle, so Appellant offered his grandmother's SUV, which Carroll believed to be a Yukon. Carroll drove the SUV, with Appellant and Martinez riding along. Appellant was not sure exactly where West lived, so he instructed Carroll to park at the Midland Village Apartments. Carroll backed into a parking spot at the apartment complex.

         The three of them got out of the vehicle and began to walk around and look for West. They could not find her, so they returned to the SUV. Appellant called West, using the blue phone, and asked her to come meet him. At this time, Appellant was wearing black Jordan tennis shoes, a colorful tank top that had a puzzle-piece design, and black shorts.

         While still on the phone, Appellant left to go meet West. Carroll and Martinez followed Appellant until he located West. Carroll and Martinez then returned to the SUV. Carroll waited in the driver's seat, and Martinez waited in the front passenger seat. After approximately thirty minutes, Carroll heard a gunshot, a pause, then four more gunshots.

         Carroll panicked and began to drive away, but Martinez told her not to leave yet. Carroll described Martinez's reaction as "calm." Appellant returned to the SUV, got into the backseat, and threw the gun down. Appellant then exclaimed, "F--k, I dropped that phone." Carroll told him to go back and get it. Appellant left to go look for the phone.

         Carroll again began to drive away. Again, Martinez told her to wait. She parked in a different parking spot and waited for an additional five minutes. When Appellant did not reappear, Carroll left without him. Martinez instructed Carroll to drive to his apartment so that he could drop off the gun. The pair then returned to Appellant's house, where they found Appellant sitting on the porch with Sandy. Appellant was no longer wearing a shirt. Carroll testified that Appellant confessed to Carroll and Martinez that he shot West once, began to walk away, but then returned and shot her four more times.

         Martinez asked Carroll for a ride home. Before they left, Appellant gave Carroll his Jordan shoes and the blue prepaid phone and asked her to get rid of them. Martinez directed Carroll to a dumpster and attempted to rip the shoes. Carroll placed the shoes and the phone in the dumpster and covered them with a piece of sheetrock. She then took Martinez home and returned to her girlfriend's apartment at 1:30 a.m.

         The following morning, Carroll turned herself in to the police. She later pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence in connection with the murder. Carroll denied any knowledge of Appellant's plans to murder West when she drove Appellant to the area of West's apartment complex.

         Martinez testified that, at around 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. on July 10, Carroll and Appellant picked him up at his apartment in an orange Avalanche. Appellant asked Martinez to bring his revolver. The three of them drove to Appellant's house and changed vehicles, getting into a green SUV. They then drove to the convenience store, where Martinez purchased the prepaid phone minutes. From there, they went to an apartment complex to meet West. Appellant contacted West and told her that he wanted to give her some money. Martinez testified that he waited in the SUV with Carroll while Appellant met with West. After forty to sixty minutes, Martinez heard a gunshot, followed by a pause, and then heard two or three more gunshots.

         Martinez testified that Carroll began to panic and that, in response, he told her to wait for Appellant. Appellant jumped into the backseat of the SUV, but then got out to go look for his phone. Carroll parked in a different parking spot and waited an additional three or four minutes before eventually giving up and returning to Appellant's house. At Appellant's house, Appellant confessed to Martinez that he had shot West as she was walking away from him.

         Appellant asked Martinez to get rid of the gun. He asked Carroll to get rid of "the other stuff." Carroll then gave Martinez a ride home, but they took a detour to get rid of the gun and the other evidence. Martinez testified that, when Appellant committed the murder, Appellant was wearing an orange and blue muscle shirt with tiger stripes and solid-colored shorts. Martinez was wearing a pair of baby blue Jordan tennis shoes. Martinez ...


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