The Iowa Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction of a man charged in connection with the brutal murder of northwest Iowa teenager.
Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez is the former owner of a restaurant in Estherville who admits he was the leader of a drug-dealing gang. He was convicted of second degree murder and second degree kidnapping in connection with the death of Gregory "Sky" Erickson.
Erickson, who also lived in Estherville, was 15 when he was killed in June of 1997. Prosecutors say he was beaten and shot in the head, execution style, because he owned money to the drug dealer. The teen’s body was found in an abandoned farmhouse in Minnesota, just north of the Iowa border.
Federal charges were filed against Castillo in 1997, but dismissed in 1998 because he fled to Mexico and Mexican authorities would not send him back to the U.S. for a trial that could result in the death penalty. In 2004, state charges were filed and in 2005 Castillo was sent back to the U.S. to stand trial.
The Iowa Court of Appeals has noted Castillo showed "skill at evading arrest," but it ruled prosecutors had not shown "good cause" for failing to give Castillo a speedy trial in state court. The court accused prosecutors of "inaction" and "miscalculations" — and pointed to a rule which requires the state to bring a defendant to trial within 90 days after he or she has been indicted.
Ten people — all members of a gang that prosecutors say was led by Castillo — have been charged with varying roles in the teenager’s brutal death. Two judges on the appeals court filed a formal dissent today, blaming Castillo’s "flight" to Mexico for the delay in his trial.