The Houston Chronicle reports that Juan Castillo, known as the “Lovers’ Lane Killer,” is set to be executed for the 2003 Texas murder. Castillo has had three execution dates cancelled in the past year, due to a filing error, hurricane and recantation. He will now be executed on Wednesday night of this week and will be the sixth death row inmate to be executed this year in Huntsville.
Castillo, now 37, was sentenced to death in 2005 for murdering Tommy Garcia, Jr., who was a local aspiring rapper. Castillo fatally shot Garcia during a robbery.
In December 2003, Castillo and his girlfriend, along with two other people, conspired to team up against Garcia. Castillo’s girlfriend, Debra Espinosa, was Garcia’s ex-lover. Espinosa lured Garcia to a secluded spot by promising sex and drugs, then two men in ski masks – determined to be Castillo and Francisco Gonzales – attacked the couple. Garcia was pulled from the car and shot seven times.
Espinosa and Gonzales both testified against Castillo, telling the court he was the one who shot Garcia. Castillo has maintained his innocence, stating he was never present for the attack.
No physical evidence placed Castillo at the scene of the crime, but many eyewitness testimonies and witnesses saying they heard Castillo admit to the crime were submitted by the prosecutor. Another witness told police she saw Castillo wearing the victim’s jewelry after the murder.
However, in the past 13 years, some details of the case have come into question. One of the key witnesses against Castillo recanted his testimony five years ago. This recantation won Castillo a stay of his execution.
When the case was sent back to a lower appeals court, the judge rejected the claim before the defense could weigh in, determining that the recantation was unreliable.
Defense attorneys accused prosecutors of withholding evidence last week and raised questions about two additional witnesses, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals turned down that claim for an appeal.
*Photo credit TDCJ