The Luling teenager who left the scene of a botched marijuana heist and returned after all the shots had been fired now faces three counts of murder.
A Hays County District grand jury has indicted Frank Castro, 18, for one count of capital murder, two counts of felony murder and one count of aggravated robbery.
Castro was one of four Luling teenagers who entered a home on 926 Chestnut Street at around 2 a.m. on Sept. 4 looking for marijuana. The Hays County District Attorney’s (DA) office said one of the juveniles was armed with a loaded 9 mm handgun, while Castro and another juvenile held pellet guns.
When a confrontation ensued between an occupant of the home and the teenagers, a second occupant overhead, retrieved a 40-caliber Glock handgun and went to investigate. Seeing four intruders carrying weapons and wearing bandanas to cover their faces, the resident with the Glock opened fire on them.
John Alvarez and Rudy Tinoco, each 16, died in the shootings. Jordan Mendez, 16, received serious wounds and was transported to Brackenridge Hospital. Mendez was treated and later released, though the DA’s office said he is recovering from his injuries. Castro fled the home unharmed, but returned and was arrested at the scene.
Castro later told police that the teenagers entered the home intending to steal marijuana. Castro told police that a male resident known as “Harry Potter” sold large quantities of “dro,” a higher and more expensive grade of marijuana, out of the home. SMPD has not confirmed if one of the residents present during the burglary was “Harry Potter.”
Said San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams, “They were looking for drugs and they knew where to find them.”
A combination of Texas laws has resulted in the DA filing murder charges against a party who held a pellet gun and fled the scene, while no charges are filed against the party whose shots killed two people.
The “castle doctrine” holds that homeowners have the right to use deadly force, if necessary, to protect themselves or their property without liability. In addition, said Williams, “The law in Texas is such that if you are a member of a conspiracy and you’re engaged in some crime, you are responsible for what happens.”
Said the DA’s office, in a statement, “Under Texas law, any person who is a party to an offense is criminally liable for the actions of all co-actors who participated in the commission of the crime. Also under Texas law the fact that the individuals who were killed were participants in the robbery does not absolve a co-participant from criminal responsibility for their deaths.”
Williams, who turned the matter over to the DA’s office after the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) finished its investigation, said he has received several questions from people wondering how to rationalize the charges.
“As long as the facts fit the law, it’s (the DA’s) decision,” Williams said.
Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe said Tuesday that her office will not seek the death penalty against Castro. However, felony murder and aggravated robbery are first degree felonies carrying life in prison or any term of between five and 99 years.
“This incident resulted in the deaths of two young people as well as a third suffering serious injury,” Tibbe said. “Additionally it has caused concern to the citizens of San Marcos about the safety of their community. Our office is taking this and similar incidents extremely seriously and intends to see that those who choose to engage in this type of conduct are held accountable. With these indictments we feel that a message is being sent that this type of criminal behavior will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Though Castro turned 18 on Tuesday, he was a juvenile at the time of the episode. He will be arraigned on Dec. 10 in Judge Charles Ramsay’s 22nd District Court. Assistant DA Fred Weber will try the case for the county, while San Marcos attorney David S. Watts will represent Castro.
The home at 926 Chestnut Street, where the alleged murders took place.Email | Print