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Rockville Father Changes Plea in Children's Deaths

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

BALTIMORE, Jan. 13 -- An attorney for the Rockville man accused of drowning his three children in a bathtub at a Baltimore hotel said in court Tuesday that -- for the second time -- her client would invoke Maryland's version of the insanity defense.

Mark Castillo withdrew such a plea at an earlier proceeding, saying then that he and his attorneys "just don't agree on the same defense."

In Baltimore Circuit Court on Tuesday, he appeared to have changed his mind. As the attorney, Natasha Dartigue Moody, explained to him that a plea of "not criminally responsible" would delay the start of his trial, Castillo indicated that he understood. "Yes, ma'am," he said several times.

Castillo, 42, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the March 29 slayings of the children, Anthony, 6, Austin, 4, and Athena, 2.

Authorities have said he told investigators that he killed the children just before he was required to return them to his then-wife, Amy, under a visitation agreement. According to charging documents, Castillo said he swallowed 100 Motrin tablets and stabbed himself in the neck with a steak knife, then drifted into unconsciousness and woke up 19 hours later, realizing that his suicide attempt had failed.

In the past, Castillo has sobbed through court proceedings or refused to participate. He has suggested at times that he would like to plead guilty and receive the death penalty. On Tuesday, he appeared composed.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Gale E. Rasin ordered that Castillo submit to a psychological evaluation before his new trial date of April 28.

If state doctors concluded that he was not criminally responsible, prosecutors could contest the finding, and the court would decide whether Castillo should be committed to a psychiatric facility. If doctors concluded that he was criminally responsible, defense attorneys could produce experts to try to contradict that finding.

Prosecutors have opted not to seek the death penalty. Castillo faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole if found criminally responsible and convicted by a jury.

After Tuesday's hearing, prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment, citing a gag order imposed by Rasin. In court, Assistant State's Attorney Julie Drake said only that her team of prosecutors was ready for trial.

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