By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 4, 2008
A Silver Spring woman whose three children were slain last weekend in a case in which her husband has been charged said yesterday that the court system in Montgomery County needs to better understand mental illness and that "some people . . . would not listen to me."
"I felt almost like something was going to happen," said Amy Castillo, speaking publicly for the first time since her children were drowned Saturday in a Baltimore hotel room. "I can say, 'I told you so.' But unfortunately, 'I told you so' doesn't give me much relief."
Castillo, 43, stood before a bank of TV cameras inside McLean Bible Church, where she plays violin in the orchestra and where at least two of the children were enrolled in Bible classes. She spoke for 12 minutes with two friends by her side, choking up as she described the difficulty of knowing that she must continue without her children.
Castillo, a pediatrician, said she spoke out because she has realized how many people have been hurt by the deaths. The children -- Anthony, 6, Austin, 4, and Athena, 2 -- will be remembered tomorrow at a service at the church in Vienna.
Mark Castillo, 41, is charged with first-degree murder in the children's deaths. He told investigators that he killed them 2 1/2 hours before he was required to return them to his wife under a visitation agreement worked out in court, authorities said. Amy Castillo lived with her children in Silver Spring.
According to charging documents, Castillo told investigators that he drowned the children one by one at a hotel near the Inner Harbor. He said he swallowed 100 Motrin tablets and stabbed himself in the neck with a steak knife. He drifted into unconsciousness and woke up 19 hours later, realizing his suicide attempt had failed, the documents say.
The court file chronicling the Castillos' separation and custody dispute offers little explanation of what might have triggered the slayings.
At the church, Amy Castillo said that she had told her husband he needed to get a job. She also said she had "found issues" with a van he drove and "turned the tags into the motor vehicle association, forcing him to go get new tags."
"And I think all around he was in trouble," she said. "I think he was getting more and more angry."
Mark Castillo had been diagnosed with depression and was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for a week after planning to kill himself in 2006, according to court records.
Amy Castillo said that she was always concerned when her husband had the children and that she once hid them at a friend's house to keep them from him. "I was willing to accept the consequences," she said.
Castillo spoke in a meeting room in the sprawling church, which draws about 10,000 people during a typical weekend.
She said she finds comfort in her faith.
"I have been a follower of Christ, and I am still a follower of Jesus Christ," she said during her remarks. "I believe God is completely sovereign and in control and that he has a good plan for me, although at this time I just don't feel it, but I know it to be true. The difficult part is that I don't understand it right now."
Speaking of her children, Castillo said: "I'm going to have to live in this life without my children, and I will never see them grow past 2, 4 and 6, and all the things planned together just won't happen. It's a pain I just don't know how I am going to deal with."
She met Castillo about 10 years ago, when she lived in Charleston, S.C., and he was in town with a gymnastics and trampoline show, according to Montgomery County Circuit Court records. They married Feb. 7, 1998. In 2005, Amy Castillo said she heard her husband making "passive suicidal threats," saying that he wished he would go to sleep and never wake up, according to court records. They were separated, and she was granted a limited divorce in February.
After he became less stable, the records say, Amy Castillo feared for her children's safety. In July 2006, she asked for sole custody. Over the next 21 months, at times she asked the courts to halt his visitation.
Responding to questions yesterday about whether the court system had done enough to limit her husband's access to the children, Castillo said, "I do feel like there were situations and some people who would not listen to me, and it was very frustrating."
She also paid alimony to her husband, who had worked with computers and as a gymnastics coach. In February, she said, the Montgomery County Circuit Court halted the alimony payments, saying that Mark Castillo was not looking for a job.
Yesterday, Amy Castillo said she felt that she had barely gotten to know her daughter. "She really was starting to smile and dance around and jump up and down and always wanted me to hold her," she said.
Castillo described a conversation she overheard a few weekends ago in her basement between her sons.
She said Austin told Anthony, "When I die, I am going to be in heaven with Jesus."
"That's true," Anthony replied. "But you know you can't bring your toys and you can't bring your blanket with you."
Castillo said she overheard Austin saying that he understood. "It just really confirmed to me that at least my two children who could speak, they understood the meaning of sin, the meaning of forgiveness and the meaning of just the love of Christ."
Friends asked that anyone interested in supporting the family go to http://www.lovefund4amy.com.