St. Thomas man again sentenced to life in prison for murder of 12-year-old girl


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ST. THOMAS - Daniel Castillo, who was convicted of killing 12-year-old Laquina Hennis in April 2007, was sentenced on Friday for a second time to life in prison.

The sentence followed the V.I. Supreme Court's July 2013 opinion overturning Castillo's initial sentence.

V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar previously had sentenced Castillo to life in prison for his voluntary manslaughter conviction, and another 30 years for aggravated child abuse.

Castillo filed an appeal after the initial sentence was delivered, citing issues pertaining to evidence admitted during trial; errors in jury instructions; the trial court's application of the Habitual Criminals Statute in sentencing; ineffective counsel; and double jeopardy.

The high court's opinion upheld the majority of the Superior Court's decisions, though it noted that the lower court should have announced each sentence and then stayed the execution of, or delayed, a sentence that could have been duplicative.

That is precisely what Superior Court Judge Denise Francois did on Friday, reissuing the life sentence but staying the 30-year sentence for the assault charge.

Law enforcement officials first picked up Castillo on April 8, 2007, two days after Castillo killed Hennis, but released him after questioning. Four days later, he was arrested by federal marshals.

Hennis' family had issued a missing person's report the day of her death. It was not until five days later that law enforcement officials discovered her decomposing body, which had been stuffed into a bin in a shed on Eighth Street.

Police were summoned to the location after neighbors reported a foul smell emanating from the area.

Castillo confessed to the crime after his arrest, telling federal marshals and then police that he had run into the girl on his 30th birthday and took her to his house on Eighth Street, where he was a squatter at the time.

Castillo said he insulted Hennis's mother during a conversation with the girl, at which point she hit him on the head. Angered, he turned the girl around and choked her until she turned blue, he told authorities.

Realizing Hennis was dead, Castillo folded her body, stuffed it into a bin and placed a white wedding dress on top of her.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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