Castillo-Alvarez sentenced to 40 yearsJACKSON — Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez, 41, was sentenced to 40 years in custody Thursday for masterminding the murder of 15-year-old Gregory Sky Erickson, known as Sky, in 1997.
JACKSON — Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez, 41, was sentenced to 40 years in custody Thursday for masterminding the murder of 15-year-old Gregory Sky Erickson, known as Sky, in 1997.
Sky’s body was discovered in an abandoned farmhouse in June 1997 after he was kidnapped from Spencer, Iowa, over an alleged drug debt.
Nine other people were charged in the course of the investigation, many of whom ended up serving prison sentences.
Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matt Frank, assisted by Jackson County Attorney Bob O’Connor, received a jury’s guilty verdict against Castillo-Alvarez in January for two counts of aiding and abetting second degree murder and one count of kidnapping.
Thursday, they asked for an upward departure from the presumptive sentence of 306 months, also requesting that the sentences for the murder and kidnapping charges be served consecutively, rather than concurrently.
Before the sentence was handed down by Judge Linda Titus, Sky’s parents, Greg Erickson and Joni Ketter, both read impact statements asking that Castillo-Alvarez be sentenced to the maximum time allowed by law.
Erickson described Sky as a “happy-go-lucky” kid who “once he set his mind on something, became a force of nature.”
“…For me, Sky’s murder was the beginning of a terrible nightmarish journey that is still going on 14 years later,” he stated. “Sky was my only child. He was my purpose in life and I miss him dearly. The fact that he was beaten, kidnapped, tortured and beaten some more, executed and eventually doused with gasoline and set on fire makes his murder only harder to accept.”
The drug debts Sky owed, Erickson said, had been paid back, but the payments never found their way to Castillo-Alvarez.
“That’s what happens when crooks work for crooks,” he added. “…This defendant should be the poster child for why illegal Mexican immigrants should never be given any chance to become American citizens.”
The time that Castillo-Alvarez would be sentenced would never be enough, Erickson explained, and the future holds appeals followed by further appeals.
“This tragedy is never-ending,” he said. “I pray that this court does everything in its power to see that (Castillo-Alvarez) is sent away for as long as he possibly can be. Sky certainly was.”
Ketter told Titus there were days after Sky’s death that she didn’t know if she could crawl out of bed and face the world — one full of cruelty, where the life of a boy was meaningless and disposable.
Over the years, she was finally able to find beauty in the world, kindness in people and hope for the future, but things would never be how they should be.
“Senior prom. Heading off to college. The birth of his own child,” she stated. “Those are all things that were robbed of Sky and his family. No matter how many guilty verdicts are handed down, nothing can bring Sky back. Nothing can make us whole again.”
Castillo-Alvarez, she said, has never shown remorse for his role in Sky’s death, but has tried every available tactic to evade answering for his crimes, including running away and leaving a pregnant wife and young child behind when he fled to Mexico.
“Please do Sky the honor of sentencing this defendant to a term in prison that truly honors his memory,” she concluded.
Public attorney Luis Kuchera requested that Titus hand down the presumptive sentence for the charges and to make them concurrent.
Castillo-Alvarez was not even present when the additional harm took place,” he stated. “He’s being held accountable for actions committed by other people, but he was not even present.”
Titus did approve Kuchera’s request that Castillo-Alvarez be given credit for time served since 2006, rather than 2010, when the state of Minnesota took custody.
Castillo-Alvarez will be given credit for 1,677 days of incarceration. He was sentenced to 48 months for the kidnapping, then 480 months for Sky’s murder.
He will be required to serve two-thirds of the sentence in prison, and one-third on supervised release.
He will spend roughly 27 years incarcerated.
After hearing the sentence, Ketter said it was hard to be happy, but she was relieved.
“There’s satisfaction in knowing those responsible will be held accountable, not only to society, but to Sky,” she said.
Erickson said he wasn’t expecting to hear the consecutive sentence.
Now, he said, Castillo-Alvarez would begin the appeals process, a comment O’Connor agreed on.
“I’m pleased with the judge’s sentence,” O’Connor stated. “But we do expect appeals.”