Alvaro Castillo had attempted suicide on the anniversary of the Columbine school shootings and told a social worker he believed that microphones were in his house and that a picture hanging in the bathroom watched him, a social worker testified Monday in Orange County Superior Court.
But Oasis, a UNC-Chapel Hill mental health clinic for teens and adolescents suffering from early psychosis, turned the teenager away a month before investigators say he shot his father and opened fire on his former high school. That was the testimony of Jill Dunn, a private social worker with the Caring Family Network in Hillsborough who tried to get psychiatric treatment for Castillo in July and August of 2006.
The revelation came from the second witness that Castillo's defense team put on the stand. The trial has been callinginto question the defendant's state of mind on Aug.30, 2006, the day his father was found fatally shot in the family's home in Hillsborough.
Defense lawyers say their evidence will also raise questions about the mental health care provided to a teen who had exhibited problems for months before the shootings.
Dunn, who is scheduled to resume testimony today, said Castillo came to Caring Family Network on July 24, 2006, for an initial assessment that took an hour, double the time of the typical analysis.
Castillo was obsessed with the 1999 Columbine school shootings, in which two Colorado students killed 13 before taking their own lives, Dunn testified.
Worried that she could not get Castillo in to a see a Caring Family Network psychiatrist for six weeks because of a backlog of patients, Dunn said she immediately sought help from Oasis, a clinic in southern Orange County where Castillo had been before.
Dunn said Oasis staffers told her they would not accept Castillo as a patient because they questioned whether he was making up delusions about microphones in the house and pictures watching him to get out of a commitment to the National Guard.
But Phoebe Dee, the defense lawyer questioning Dunn, pointed out that, by that time, Castillo had received an honorable discharge from the National Guard.
In a trial that has drawn national attention because of the defendant's Columbine obsession, defense lawyers have mounted an insanity defense.
Castillo, now 22, recorded his obsession in journals and home-made videos, according to testimony last week.
On Monday, after nearly six days of testimony, District Attorney Jim Woodall finished presenting evidence for the state.
In a trial that Court TV is covering gavel to gavel, prosecutors have accused Castillo of murdering his father Rafael Huezo Castillo, of opening fire on Orange High School.
Castillo, according to his lawyer, suffers from mental illness so debilitating that he cannot be held criminally responsible for the crimes of which he is accused.
Struggle with his father
On April 20, 2006, the anniversary of the Columbine shootings, Capt. Charles Blackwood of the Orange County Sheriff's Office encountered the Castillos outside a gas station on U.S. 70.
The teen and his father had struggled over a loaded gun in their Hillsborough home during what was described as a suicide attempt, Blackwood testified Monday.
"He was upset, distraught, there was a sense of urgency about him," Blackwood testified. "He never told me to kill him, but he indicated that he wanted to die."
After that incident, Blackwood testified, a magistrate signed an order to have the teen involuntarily committed at UNC Hospitals for mental health treatment.
On the firing range
Much of the testimony Monday morning centered on the weapons that investigators say Castillo used Aug. 30, 2006.
In July, several months after the struggle over the gun inside their home, Alvaro Castillo and his father were at a Burlington shooting range together, according to testimony Monday.
Eric Hinshaw, an employee at Handgunners Inc., a firearms training facility in southern Alamance County, testified that the father and son were at the range for two hours.
They fired a 9mm rifle, a shotgun and a rented Glock pistol, Hinshaw said. The rifle jammed more than once. Investigators say the rifle used in the shooting at the high School also jammed.
Monday afternoon, Deborah Radisch, associate chief medical examiner, testified that her autopsy of Rafael Castillo revealed seven gunshot wounds, five on the left side of his head.
Before the state rested its case, jurors got a close look at the weapons, clothes, journal and other evidence that deputies gathered the day of the shootings.
Victoria Castillo, the defendant's mother, sat quietly with her daughter on the sixth day of testimony. She has declined to discuss her son's case, saying she thought that was best for him.