By Daniel de Vise and Elissa Silverman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, March 31, 2008
Three young children from Montgomery County were found slain in a hotel room in Baltimore yesterday, shortly after their father called the front desk to report that he had killed them, Baltimore police said.
The father, Mark Castillo, 41, of Silver Spring, was in police custody at a Baltimore hospital last night. Court records available online show that he was involved in divorce and child custody proceedings with the children's mother, Amy A. Castillo, 42, a pediatrician in suburban Maryland.
The children were identified as Anthony, 6; Austin, 4; and Athena, 2. They apparently lived in the 400 block of Waterford Road in Silver Spring with their mother.
The children, who had been seen playing at home Friday, were found in a top-floor room of a hotel near Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor.
Baltimore police spokesman Sterling Clifford said autopsies will be conducted to determine the cause of the deaths.
"We're looking at either suffocation or strangulation or possibly drowning," he said.
Police said the slayings might be linked to the custody dispute.
"It kind of looks that way," Clifford said, "but I'm just not sure." He said last night that the father had superficial cuts that "appeared to be self-inflicted."
"This is just a horrible tragedy," said Joe Vanderwalde, the mother's supervisor in the Kaiser Permanente system. "It is the worst thing I've ever heard of."
Police said the father and the children got a room Saturday in the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards.
According to police, shortly after 1 p.m. yesterday, a call was received at the hotel's front desk from someone who said that he had killed his family and was about to kill himself.
Hotel security guards went to the Castillo family's 10th-floor room, according to police, and found the man and the bodies of the children.
Vanderwalde, pediatrics service chief for the Mid-Atlantic Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, said the children's mother had "tried so hard to do what she could for her children."
She tried to "keep them away" from Mark Castillo, Vanderwalde said. But he said the father fought for custody.
In 2006, according to court records, Amy Castillo was granted temporary sole custody on an emergency motion, but Mark Castillo was granted visitation rights shortly afterward. At least twice last year, motions that would have withheld visitation rights were denied. At one point, according to the records, Amy Castillo was fined for refusing visitation rights.
Another time, according to the records, a court ordered a mental health examination for him.
The couple had apparently moved to Waterford Road at least four years ago, a neighbor said, and they seemed happy at first.
Maria Habesch, one neighbor, said she had attended parties at their home. She said Castillo spoke warmly of his wife and told of the couple's plans to expand their family, which then included two children.
"The last two years, I haven't seen him around," Habesch said.
Habesch said she had seen police come to the home.
Keith Lamirande, another neighbor, said he had seen the police called "at least a half-dozen times," including once within the past week.
No current address for the father was available. An effort to reach a lawyer who represented him in the divorce proceedings was unsuccessful.
The children's mother worked for several years as a pediatrician at the Kaiser Permanente facility on Connecticut Avenue in Kensington. Recently, she shifted her practice to a Kaiser facility in Largo, Vanderwalde said.
"She has been a valued member of our department, and the whole department is mourning her tragedy," he said. "We will try to support her for whatever she needs."
He said he understood that the physician and Mark Castillo had not lived together for several years.
Montgomery police are assisting in the investigation.
Staff researcher Rena Kirsch contributed to this report.