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Tuesday, November 20 , 2018, 12:05 am | Fair 52º


Second Defendant Testifies in Ibarra Murder Trial

Ramon Maldonado talks with his attorney while in court Friday. Maldonado is one of the six defendants on trial for the gang-related torture and slaying of Anthony Ibarra in 2013.
Ramon Maldonado talks with his attorney while in court Friday. Maldonado is one of the six defendants on trial for the gang-related torture and slaying of Anthony Ibarra in 2013.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A second man testifying in his own defense in the trial for six men charged with the gang-related torture-killing of Anthony Ibarra two years ago in Santa Maria said the assault on the victim who owed money for drugs made him uncomfortable.

Questioning of Jason Castillo continued Friday in Santa Maria Juvenile Court, where the defendant faced cross examination by the prosecutor.

Authorities contend the 28-year-old Ibarra was killed because he owed debts for drugs. While he was assaulted in a house on West Donovan Road on March 17, 2013, Ibarra’s body was later found in a U-Haul truck parked on an Orcutt street.

Under questioning from defense attorney Addison Steele, who represents Anthony “AJ” Solis, Castillo admitted he was disturbed by the shouting at Ibarra regarding money he owed.

“I wasn’t, like, scared out of my wits,” he said, adding he figured he should find a different room.

“You were uncomfortable with the sense this was potentially getting violent, is that right?” Steele asked.

Castillo agreed. He also recalled seeing Solis appear shaken.

“At the time when I looked at him that’s what came to mind is a little Chihuahua shaking,” Castillo said.

In addition to Castillo and Solis, also charged are alleged shot-caller Ramon Maldonado, his father David Maldonado, Reyes Gonzales and Santos Sauceda.

Defense attorney David Bixby, who represents David Maldonado, asked if the brother and sister who resided at the home seemed anxious about meeting Castillo.

“He didn’t appear to me to be stressed out,” Castillo said of Angel Escobar and gave a similar answer about his sister.

Defense attorneys have suggested Angel Escobar or Robert Sosa, who testified for the prosecution, actually killed Ibarra. 

Sosa is the brother of defendant Reyes Gonzales, and both men are Castillo’s cousins.

When the victim first showed up at the house he was assaulted in the living room, receiving what Castillo called a “flurry of blows.” Later, another more brutal assault occurred in a back bedroom.

Bixby asked if Castillo recalled what David Maldonado was doing in the room. 

“He was just fidgeting,” Castillo said.

“Never menacing toward Mr. Ibarra?” Bixby asked as Castillo said no.

After the assaults, Castillo remained in the back bedroom with Ibarra. 

“I wanted to get out of there, but I was just so tired I didn’t really want to move,” Castillo said, later saying he wasn’t afraid but found the incident “extremely unnerving.”

While questioned by Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen on Friday afternoon, Castillo said he didn’t want to flee from the house.

“I think that would make me look kind of foolish,” Castillo said, adding he never contemplated running out of the front door.

He also backed away from his earlier testimony about what order the defendants entered the back bedroom. 

“I don’t recall,” he said. “It’s all a bit hazy.”

Outside the jury’s presence before lunch, Bramsen sought to delve into Castillo’s past criminal convictions, noting testimony about a lack of violence in his background is “not accurate.”

He testified he had two previous domestic violence and four driving under the influence convictions. 

Castillo had been convicted of battery for choking and strangling his stepfather and his soon-to-be ex-wife in separate incidents several years ago. Since both cases involve him committing violent acts, Bramsen argued the jury should hear information to counter his testimony that a little yelling bothered him so much he retreated to a back bedroom. Judge Rick Brown denied her request.

Bramsen’s cross examination of Castillo is scheduled to continue Monday morning.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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