Teenager Convicted of Stabbing His Mother to Death; Cousin Also Guilty
A Lynwood teenager who confessed to police that he fatally stabbed his mother because she made him empty the trash and grounded him as punishment was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
At an upcoming sentencing hearing, Mario Salvador Padilla, 17, will face the prospect of life in prison without parole for killing his mother, Gina Castillo, 37.
The boy’s cousin, Samuel Jeremias Ramirez, 16, was convicted by a separate jury on similar charges for his role in the murder. He faces a sentence of 25 years to life. Both teenagers were tried as adults.
Castillo was discovered in her two-bedroom apartment Jan. 13, 1998, after calling 911 and telling an emergency operator that her son had stabbed her. She also managed to phone her husband before she died to report the attack by the two teenagers.
Police said the two boys and another youth planned the attack after watching two Hollywood horror movies. The boys sought to copy the movies “Scream” and “Scream 2” by wearing Grim Reaper costumes and voice distortion boxes. But police said the boys could not afford the disguises, and decided instead to pull their shirts over their heads.
Although the murder’s alleged connection to two popular movies was a major element of the prosecution’s case, Compton Superior Court Judge John Cheroske prohibited any mention of the films or the costumes in court. Defense lawyers had argued that the movies were not a factor in the killing.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Carol Rose said Thursday that she at first feared the restriction would weaken her case. “In the end it didn’t hurt,” Rose said.
The judge also had barred all television and newspaper photographers from the courtroom.
Padilla confessed to police that he stabbed and slashed his mother with an assortment of knives.
Ramirez held the woman down during the attack, and he was judged to be equally liable for the crime under state law.
Jurors agreed the teenagers had also conspired to kill Padilla’s stepfather, Pedro Castillo. The electrician, however, was not at home, as the teenagers expected.
Pedro Castillo did not attend the weeklong trial, although Rose said she told him of the verdict Thursday.
“We both cried,” she said. “It was torment for him. He never wanted to have contact with his stepson again, even though he raised him for 10 years.”
Defense lawyers Paul Golub and Joan Whiteside Green declined to comment on the case.
In addition to first-degree murder and conspiracy, Padilla was found guilty of two special circumstance allegations, lying in wait and robbery.
Police said the youths had watched their victim from outside the apartment and stole about $140 that was given to Castillo for the birth of her month-old daughter.
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