Jury selection begins today in murder case
JACKSON -- Jury selection begins today in the trial of Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez, a man implicated in the 1997 murder of a 15-year-old Estherville, Iowa, boy.
Castillo-Alvarez, 41, is charged in Jackson County District Court with aiding and abetting in second-degree murder, both with and without intent, and kidnapping.
Castillo-Alvarez was tried and convicted in an Iowa court for his role in Gregory "Sky" Erickson's murder, the last of 10 people charged in the plot. The conviction was later overturned by an appellate court on the basis of speedy trial rights violations.
According to appellate court documents, Castillo-Alvarez was charged in Clay County and through federal courts.
At the time of the murder, he owned a restaurant and was living in Estherville illegally under the assumed name of Ricardo Castillo.
He allegedly arranged for Erickson's murder because the teen supposedly owed a $1,400 debt for marijuana.
Erickson was kidnapped from Spencer, Iowa, by members of the Los Crazy Boys gang, to which Castillo-Alvarez allegedly belonged.
The teen was beaten, then taken to a rural farm house in Jackson County and shot to death.
Castillo-Alvarez was not present at the time of the shooting, but the murder weapon was reportedly returned to him afterward.
Castillo-Alvarez fled to Mexico to avoid prosecution. Even after he was taken into Mexican custody, the country refused to turn him over to the United States because law in Mexico forbids extradition when life in prison or death penalties are involved.
Castillo-Alvarez was released from Mexican custody in 1998. In 2004, U.S. authorities requested that Castillo-Alvarez be taken back into custody on state charges, but he was not arrested until 2005.
Eventually an agreement was reached and Castillo-Alvarez was turned over to the U.S. in 2006.
Jury selection for the case will likely be a slow process that could take several days, as the defense has requested the right to question possible jurors individually.
Currently, 11 days have been cleared on the Jackson County District Court schedule -- days that span over a three-week period, leaving Mondays open for regular court business.
Another circumstance that might slow down the trial somewhat is the possible use of an interpreter for Castillo-Alvarez.
During hearings leading up to the trial, a former Iowa magistrate testified that Castillo-Alvarez not only spoke English when she dealt with a minor misdemeanor case against him, but served as an interpreter for a relative during a separate case.
An agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Emmet County Sheriff testified that Castillo-Alvarez spoke English in their own dealings with him. But Castillo-Alvarez has requested and used an interpreter for the Minnesota proceedings.
The case will be prosecuted by Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank, with assistance from Jackson County Attorney Robert O'Connor.
Castillo-Alvarez's attorney is public defender Louis Kuchera. The trial will be presided over by Judge Linda Titus.