Dominican pleads guilty in U.S. to killing friend with a brick over $500 debt
An Allentown man admitted Friday to killing his good friend in 2009 during a scuffle over a debt.

Jose Manuel Castillo, 44, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, avoiding a trial that had been scheduled to begin Monday.

Prosecutors had been seeking a first-degree murder conviction and a death sentence.

Castillo also pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor theft charge and faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in state prison.


Lehigh County First Assistant District Attorney Steven Luksa said Castillo killed 65-year-old Delfino Sanchez-Villanueva in the victim's home on 516 N. Park St. in Allentown around 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 17, 2009.

Luksa said Castillo used to live there and had a key. Castillo, the prosecutor said, demanded repayment of a $500 loan, leading to an argument that turned physical. Castillo ended the battle by picking up a brick and slamming it into Sanchez-Villanueva's head. He then stole more than $1,000 from Sanchez-Villanueva's pockets and wired some money to his native Dominican Republic, Luksa said.

"When we argued, we had a scuffle. I hit him, but I didn't think he was going to die," Castillo said through a Spanish-speaking interpreter. "I didn't do it intentionally. To me, this is very uncomfortable because I loved that man."

During the testimony, Sanchez-Villanueva's family wept loudly. Some left the courtroom as Luksa described the killing.

Luksa said Sanchez-Villanueva was found lying on his living room floor bleeding and unresponsive and blood had been sprayed on the walls. Luksa said there were traces of blood found in a sink and on a water cooler — signs of a cleanup.

Police found a brick and a blood-stained Pittsburgh Steelers sweatshirt in a trash can in the kitchen and video surveillance taken before the killing shows Castillo wearing the Steelers sweatshirt, Luksa said.

When police went to interview Castillo, Luksa said he told police, "I know what this is about. I know I made a mistake and I'd like to talk to you about it."

Luksa said Castillo admitted to the killing.

"He did express that he cared for Sanchez-Villanueva throughout the process," Luksa said.

Castillo, represented by public defender Karen Schular, is scheduled to be sentenced in December by Judge Kelly L. Banach.



Go back | Date: 18 Oct 2011
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