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25 years for baby's slashing

Mental illness didn't prevent telling right from wrong: Judge

E. Castro

Before she was sentenced to 25 years in prison, Emily Castro wanted a judge to know she was a good mother.

But the 20-year-old could offer no explanation for why she slashed her 11-month-old daughter’s throat last April, leading to charges of attempted murder and battery. The girl, Janyla, has since made a full recovery.

In January, in a rare trial before a judge rather than a jury, Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck found Castro guilty but mentally ill of attempted murder. The charge of battery was included in the more serious charge and not included at sentencing.

Surbeck sentenced Castro to 30 years in prison but suspended the last five years, to be served on probation. She will be required to seek ongoing mental health treatment as a condition of her probation.

Castro sobbed through much of the sentencing hearing.

She was arrested April 4 when police were called to the 3700 block of Parkhill Avenue on a report of a dog biting a child, a report later found to be a passer-by’s erroneous observation. When police arrived, they found 11-month-old Janyla bleeding from severe cuts on her throat and being held in her grandmother’s arms.

Prosecutors argued Castro tried to kill her daughter after breaking up with the girl’s father the day before the attack.

During the trial, defense attorneys John Bohdan and Zachary Witte produced evidence Castro suffered from serious depression for years before the birth of her daughter, and that it spiraled into paranoia, causing her to think her family was trying to kill her and the baby, at the time of the attack.

Many of the statements made during Friday’s sentencing hearing focused on the unknowable “why” of what led to Castro’s actions. No one had answers.

Not prosecutors, who said there is always a struggle in such cases to find a reason.

Not Bohdan, who said Castro’s actions didn’t make sense.

And not Castro herself.

“I don’t know how this happened,” Castro said. “I want you to know I am a very good mom.”

Speaking on behalf of his sister, Ariel “Anthony” Castro described the torturous last 10 months, in which his family nearly lost both a grandchild and her mother.

“What happened to Janyla was serious, unthinkable and irreversible,” he said, reading from a statement. “What happened to my sister is no less serious.”

Emily Castro’s mental illness was something the family saw every day, and it was regrettable it failed to meet the legal definition of insanity, her brother said.

She was not an “animal who tried to kill her daughter out of revenge,” he said, describing his sister as a proud mother who put together scrapbooks in anticipation of Janyla’s first birthday.

In sentencing Emily Castro, Surbeck also addressed the unknown.

“It is certainly a mystery as to how this happened or why this happened,” the judge said.

While there was persuasive evidence of mental illness, it was clear the mental illness did not prevent Emily Castro from knowing right from wrong, making her legally responsible, Surbeck said.