Husband charged with first-degree murder of young Simi Valley mother

A woman wearing glasses and looking off to the side with a smile
Rachel Castillo, shown in an undated photo, was found dead Sunday in a remote area of the Antelope Valley.
(Castillo family)

An estranged husband has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the killing of a young Simi Valley mother of two, the Ventura County district attorney’s office said Tuesday.

Zarbab Ali, from Hawthorne, allegedly used a knife to kill Rachel Castillo, 25, with whom he had two sons, ages 2 and 5, Dist. Atty. Erik Nasarenko said in a news conference. The 25-year-old suspect is also facing special allegations of lying in wait and using a deadly weapon in the killing, Nasarenko said.

Although Castillo and Ali were in the middle of a divorce, it had not been finalized at the time of her death.


“This was a 25-year-old woman who had a bright and inspiriting future which, unfortunately, was taken from her,” Nasarenko said.

Ali, the prosecutor said, “acted in a premeditated, willful and malicious manner.”

Castillo was reported missing Thursday after her sister came home that night and found a large amount of blood. Castillo’s keys, phone and car were also left behind.

The death of Rachel Castillo rattles neighbors in a close-knit apartment complex. Her husband has been arrested as the main suspect.

Nov. 15, 2022

Castillo’s mother said Ali was set to pick up their two children that morning, while Castillo worked from home.

On Sunday, Simi Valley detectives found Castillo’s body in a remote location in the Antelope Valley, and announced that Ali was taken into custody in Victorville.

“We have quickly, sadly and tragically moved from a missing person investigation under suspicious circumstances, to a homicide investigation,” Nasarenko said.

Castillo grew up in Simi Valley, Nasarenko said, and worked for a local nonprofit organization helping families who were victims of domestic violence.


“She was very much a pillar of our community,” he said. “What happened to her is a sad, tragic and profound loss.”

Neighbors of Castillo in the apartment complex where she lived said they were shocked by the death. Some recalled seeing the former couple in coordinated Halloween costumes, and Castillo had playdates scheduled for her two children.

Ali is currently being held without bail.