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Castillo Guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter

June 13, 2008 — The man who three times confessed to strangling a 12-year-old child to death was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and child abuse Friday by a jury of 11 women and one man.
Although Daniel Castillo faced a murder charge, the jury found him guilty of the lesser crime of voluntary manslaughter in the death of La'Quina Hennis. The verdict has left some members of the community in a state of shock.
The main difference between involuntary and voluntary is that voluntary manslaughter requires an intent to kill or cause serious bodily harm, while involuntary does not, according to the legal dictionary at thefreedictionary.com.
"Obviously we were saddened with the jury's decision," said Sara Lezema, Department of Justice spokesperson, Friday afternoon. "We will continue to fight for justice for Beatrice Hennis and her little girl. We can file for enhancement of sentencing under the habitual criminal statute, known as 'three strikes and you're out.'"
Castillo has a record of criminal violence.
"Castillo has pleaded guilty to third-degree assault in attacking a mentally challenged woman," Lezema said. "If he qualifies as a repeat offender, it could carry from 10 years to life. He could spend the rest of his natural life behind bars."
Castillo was charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and child abuse in the death of Hennis, a sixth-grade honor student at Lockhart Elementary School.
Responding to a motion by public defender Harold Willocks on Wednesday, V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar reduced the charges to second-degree murder and child abuse, striking the first-degree murder charge. Hollar said the prosecution had not proven the killing was premeditated, an essential element of a first-degree murder charge. (See "Judge Eliminates First-Degree Murder as Possible Verdict Against Castillo.")
After receiving jury instructions from Hollar Thursday morning, the sequestered panel deliberated until about 10 a.m. Friday. Jurors were instructed to consider counts of second-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. They could also consider convicting Castillo on the lesser crimes of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, should they not believe that Hennis' murder was an intentional slaying. The judge also told them to consider whether Castillo's actions were motivated by self-defense.
Prosecutors Jesse Bethel and William K. Evans based their case almost entirely on Castillo's confessions, except for testimony from a woman who saw Hennis walking with Castillo the day of her disappearance, and the location of the body at Castillo's known address.
V.I. Police Detective Lionel Bess read Castillo's full nine-page confession to the jury Tuesday. Castillo said he strangled Hennis after he had angered her by insulting her mother, according to the confession. He said she hit him twice on the head.
As the verdict was read Friday, the girl's mother, Beatrice Anita Hennis, had to be helped out of the courtroom by victim advocate Leslye Webb. Contacted by phone later in the morning, Webb said she was still consoling the mother.
"We have no idea what the jury was thinking," Webb said. "He confessed three times. What did we miss?"
The advocate's role, Webb explained, is helping the victim after an incident, guiding them through the court and criminal processes. Webb and two other advocates were close by Hennis' side during the two-day trial. Hennis took the witness stand Tuesday, and was present for much of the testimony Wednesday.
Bethel said Friday that he was not "distressed" by the verdict.
"The important thing is that he has a prior felony conviction, which could make him a 'habitual offender,'" Bethel said. That charge, Bethel said, could result in a sentence of 10 years to life without the possibility of parole. This was his backup strategy should the jury fail to convict Castillo of murder.
Hollar has set August 7 for sentencing, Bethel said. The court could have a hearing on the habitual criminal charge before that date should Castillo decide to fight it, Bethel said.
Police records show that in 2004 Castillo was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree rape, two counts of carry and use of a dangerous weapon, one count of attempted robbery and one count of third-degree assault.
All charges were dismissed except the third-degree assault charge. Castillo was fined $500 and sentenced to two years in jail, with all but 18 months suspended.
Castillo was also arrested in 2002 and charged with possession of stolen property and interfering with an officer on duty. He was fined $200 and given five months and 18 days in jail with three months supervised probation.
Castillo was arrested in March 2007 on a domestic-violence charge, but freed on his own recognizance — without bond — by V.I. Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall. Castillo killed Hennis a month later.
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June 13, 2008 -- The man who three times confessed to strangling a 12-year-old child to death was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and child abuse Friday by a jury of 11 women and one man.
Although Daniel Castillo faced a murder charge, the jury found him guilty of the lesser crime of voluntary manslaughter in the death of La'Quina Hennis. The verdict has left some members of the community in a state of shock.
The main difference between involuntary and voluntary is that voluntary manslaughter requires an intent to kill or cause serious bodily harm, while involuntary does not, according to the legal dictionary at thefreedictionary.com.
"Obviously we were saddened with the jury's decision," said Sara Lezema, Department of Justice spokesperson, Friday afternoon. "We will continue to fight for justice for Beatrice Hennis and her little girl. We can file for enhancement of sentencing under the habitual criminal statute, known as 'three strikes and you're out.'"
Castillo has a record of criminal violence.
"Castillo has pleaded guilty to third-degree assault in attacking a mentally challenged woman," Lezema said. "If he qualifies as a repeat offender, it could carry from 10 years to life. He could spend the rest of his natural life behind bars."
Castillo was charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and child abuse in the death of Hennis, a sixth-grade honor student at Lockhart Elementary School.
Responding to a motion by public defender Harold Willocks on Wednesday, V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar reduced the charges to second-degree murder and child abuse, striking the first-degree murder charge. Hollar said the prosecution had not proven the killing was premeditated, an essential element of a first-degree murder charge. (See "Judge Eliminates First-Degree Murder as Possible Verdict Against Castillo.")
After receiving jury instructions from Hollar Thursday morning, the sequestered panel deliberated until about 10 a.m. Friday. Jurors were instructed to consider counts of second-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. They could also consider convicting Castillo on the lesser crimes of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, should they not believe that Hennis' murder was an intentional slaying. The judge also told them to consider whether Castillo's actions were motivated by self-defense.
Prosecutors Jesse Bethel and William K. Evans based their case almost entirely on Castillo's confessions, except for testimony from a woman who saw Hennis walking with Castillo the day of her disappearance, and the location of the body at Castillo's known address.
V.I. Police Detective Lionel Bess read Castillo's full nine-page confession to the jury Tuesday. Castillo said he strangled Hennis after he had angered her by insulting her mother, according to the confession. He said she hit him twice on the head.
As the verdict was read Friday, the girl's mother, Beatrice Anita Hennis, had to be helped out of the courtroom by victim advocate Leslye Webb. Contacted by phone later in the morning, Webb said she was still consoling the mother.
"We have no idea what the jury was thinking," Webb said. "He confessed three times. What did we miss?"
The advocate's role, Webb explained, is helping the victim after an incident, guiding them through the court and criminal processes. Webb and two other advocates were close by Hennis' side during the two-day trial. Hennis took the witness stand Tuesday, and was present for much of the testimony Wednesday.
Bethel said Friday that he was not "distressed" by the verdict.
"The important thing is that he has a prior felony conviction, which could make him a 'habitual offender,'" Bethel said. That charge, Bethel said, could result in a sentence of 10 years to life without the possibility of parole. This was his backup strategy should the jury fail to convict Castillo of murder.
Hollar has set August 7 for sentencing, Bethel said. The court could have a hearing on the habitual criminal charge before that date should Castillo decide to fight it, Bethel said.
Police records show that in 2004 Castillo was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree rape, two counts of carry and use of a dangerous weapon, one count of attempted robbery and one count of third-degree assault.
All charges were dismissed except the third-degree assault charge. Castillo was fined $500 and sentenced to two years in jail, with all but 18 months suspended.
Castillo was also arrested in 2002 and charged with possession of stolen property and interfering with an officer on duty. He was fined $200 and given five months and 18 days in jail with three months supervised probation.
Castillo was arrested in March 2007 on a domestic-violence charge, but freed on his own recognizance -- without bond -- by V.I. Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall. Castillo killed Hennis a month later.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.