Crime & Courts

Teen tells of murder as part of plea deal

Angel Castro said he doesn't want to remember what he saw last year.

When the 17-year-old took the witness stand in Sedgwick County District Court on Wednesday, he stumbled, muttered and struggled to remember what he'd worked so hard to forget.

"If it wasn't for that day, maybe a lot of things might be different," Castro said.

Castro did remember seeing Rogelio Soto Jr. with a knife the night Arturo Moreno was stabbed 79 times.

Moreno, 28, died after he'd told someone on the phone that he had been involved in the killing of Tony Galvan 11 years before.

Moreno and four others had been drinking at Moreno's apartment in south Wichita the night of March 19, 2009, Castro remembered. They'd been listening to music.

"I barely drank anything," Castro said.

Galvan, 13, was shot to death in 1998 in a gang feud over a story that one of the members later admitted he fabricated.

But that night, Castro said, Moreno told someone on the phone that he was involved.

"They were talking about the little kid getting killed," Castro said.

Castro said he knew little about Galvan's killing. But he hung out with gang members, and said he wanted to join Soto in the SUR-13 gang in south Wichita.

Galvan wasn't in a gang, but he lived in the Planeview neighborhood on Wichita's south side.

Castro had heard stories about Galvan.

"I'd heard he was killed by some north-siders," Castro said.

When the group heard Moreno say he'd been involved, Castro said, the atmosphere of the room went cold.

"I got a bad feeling," he testified. He said his stomach hurt.

Soto, 16, stood up.

"He had a knife in his hand," Castro testified.

Castro went outside and went to the back fence, leaving Soto and two others with Moreno.

As Castro left, he said he heard Moreno say: "Why? Why?"

When he walked back in, there was blood on the floor.

Castro admitted he helped clean up items the four had touched and drove them all to the Arkansas River, where they threw a bag in the water.

That would result in Castro pleading guilty to aiding a felon, a low-level felony that resulted in probation from juvenile court. Part of his plea requires him to testify.

Castro said he went to talk to Soto that night to say he didn't want to join the gang after all.

Brian Hitchcock, Soto's attorney, cross-examined Castro about his plea deal and why he originally told police he knew nothing.

Days later, in a second interview, Wichita police Detective Wendy Jacobs-Hummell showed Castro a shirt she'd found in his closet with blood on it.

"You knew you were in it deep, right?" Hitchcock asked.

"Yes," Castro said.

"That's when you told her, 'I saw Rogelio with a knife?' " Hitchcock asked.

"Yes," Castro said.

Soto, now 18, is charged with first-degree murder.

Giovanni Gonzalez, 19, was convicted in May of second-degree murder for the same crime and sentenced to prison last week.

Another man, Luis Navarrette-Pacheco, 18, awaits trial next month.

The trial continues today before Judge David Kaufman.