A 37-year-old man fatally shot his octogenarian grandparents inside what was supposed to be a safe and comfortable home, a prosecutor told jurors today, but the defendant's attorney said there are holes in the evidence, raising reasonable doubt about his guilt.
Frank Scott Castro III is charged with two counts of murder, along with a special circumstance allegation of perpetrating multiple killings and sentence-enhancing allegations of discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury, according to court records.
He was arrested in September 2019 on suspicion of killing Frank Castro Sr., 83, and Carolina Castro, 81, whose bodies were found in their home in the 43000 block of West Calle Las Brisas in Palm Desert.
During opening statements Thursday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao told jurors that on Sept. 11, 2019, the defendant murdered his own grandparents in their home.
As his grandfather was reclining in his chair, dozing off, the defendant allegedly shot him "not once, not two, but three times,'' Paixao said. The victim was shot once in the right shoulder, once in the left neck area and once through his left side temple. The grandmother was shot in the kitchen, also three times, the prosecutor said.
"The defendant then placed the gun down with one remaining bullet,'' Paixao told jurors. "He waited approximately 20 minutes before he called 911."
Jurors will have an opportunity to hear the 911 call and determine what he says and what he means, the prosecutor said. But in the call, the defendant clearly states, "I shot them. They're dead,'' according to Paixao, who added that the defendant will also be heard saying he smoked meth that day.
Paixao said jurors will get to hear about every step the defendant took from grabbing the gun, loading it, making sure it had enough bullets and raising it each time at his grandparents.
Castro's attorney, David Kaloyanides, told jurors that while some issues can't be disputed, they will see there are holes in the evidence.
"I am just simply going to ask you to not only look at what the evidence shows but what it fails to show,'' Kaloyanides said.
He said the prosecution will have to prove his client is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and asked jurors to pay attention to what the evidence doesn't show.
Deputies responded at about 2 p.m. Sept. 11, 2019, to the West Calle Las Brisas address on reports of gunfire, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. Deputies found the two victims shot to death inside the residence, and the defendant standing at the front of the property.
According to a trial brief filed by the prosecution, the defendant allegedly called and said he shot both of his grandparents and that they were both dead.
The defendant waited on the patio for law enforcement and surrendered without incident, according to the brief. As Central Homicide Unit investigators attempted to interview him, he told them that he had used methamphetamine and had been up for 72 hours.
A black semiautomatic handgun was found on the kitchen counter of the home, according to the brief.
Castro III remains in custody without bail at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio.
He has no documented felony convictions in Riverside County, court records show.