MLive.com on April 17, 2012 released the following:
“By John Agar
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A West Michigan man suspected in the 2001 killing of his pregnant wife is fighting extradition to Mexico where the government wants him tried for murder.
Jose Luis Castillo, a U.S. citizen born in Texas, is accused of killing and beheading his wife, Maria Elena Mata Hernandez, and stuffing her body into a suitcase.
He has a hearing this week in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.
As part of a treaty with Mexico, U.S. prosecutors in Grand Rapids have asked Magistrate Judge Hugh Brenneman Jr. to find the complaint sufficient, and forward the extradition request to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for a final decision.
Defense attorney Donald Garthe said his client, who is serving eight to 15 years in prison for third-degree sexual assault in Berrien County, is fighting the extradition complaint. He noted that the complaint names “Jose Luis Castillo” as the suspect, while his client’s name is Raul Luis Castillo Jr.
Raul Castillo is on his birth certificate and state prison records. The government says he uses both names.
Regardless, Garthe said Monday: “He denies he killed his wife.”
He said that testimony of witnesses is not credible, and that there is no evidence from the crime scene linking his client to the killing. Garthe said witnesses only identified his client as the suspect after being told by authorities, 10 years after the killing, “that the murderer’s name was Raul Castillo.”
In the request for extradition, prosecutors said that a diplomatic note sent to the U.S. detailed the woman’s late May 2001 killing in the municipality of Soledad de Graciano, San Luis Potosi.
The government said Castillo strangled and suffocated her, which led to the death of her unborn child. He then allegedly abducted the daughter he had with his wife, referred to as Mata in court documents, and left for the U.S.
Under Mexican law, because he did not have legal custody of the child, he was accused of kidnapping her.
The couple were married in 1999 and moved to Michigan, her family told authorities.
They then left for Mexico because he was wanted in the U.S. for abducting a son from a previous relationship, records said.
The couple had a daughter, but the mother did not register her birth in Castillo’s name because he was wanted in the U.S.
He admitted to others that he killed her “as revenge for denouncing him to the authorities …,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Daniels wrote in court documents.
In early June 2001, the woman’s body was discovered inside a suitcase in an apartment after a witness reported an unbearable odor. The body, bound with plastic rope, had multiple injuries. Police found a bloody machete.
Witnesses said Castillo was last seen headed for Nuevo Laredo, which borders the U.S.
Castillo is believed to have spent time in the Benton Harbor area. Last year, he was sentenced to state prison for sexual assault.
Federal authorities took custody in February while Castillo was held at Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon. Authorities were concerned that if Castillo had been acquitted of sexual assaultl, he would flee. Federal prosecutors last year filed paperwork, recently unsealed, seeking custody.
Daniels said a hearing on Thursday would establish probable cause. In court documents, he discounted Castillo’s denials.
“Although the defendant was the last person seen with Maria and fled with (their daughter) Jennifer immediately after the murder, and the body was found in a suitcase belonging to him, and the severed head was found in a plastic bag given to him, both in the apartment he had rented, alongside the “Tommy” jeans that he wore, he now contends that there is insufficient evidence to link him to the brutal murder of his wife and unborn child.””
Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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