District attorney to present fatal crash case to grand jury

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Family and friends of Mary Castillo protested in front of the courthouse, police department and district attorney’s office Thursday, frustrated by lack of progress in the case involving the 56-year-old woman’s death.

Sharna Johnson

District Attorney Matt Chandler said Thursday he will ask a grand jury to decide if a fatal crash involving a Clovis police officer constitutes vehicular homicide.

Chandler said he decided after reviewing lab results from blood tests he received Thursday from the state’s crime lab. He said officer Stephen Gallegos’ test results, which showed no alcohol present in his blood sample, were the final documents he had been waiting on in the investigation.

The blood test is standard procedure in fatal crashes. Phone records indicate Gallegos was not using his cell phone at the time of the crash.

Mary Castillo, 56, was critically injured when a police patrol unit driven by Gallegos crashed into a pickup truck in which she was a passenger on Nov. 17. Castillo died the following day at a Lubbock hospital.

“After a thorough review of the completed investigation, I am electing to exercise the process of the grand jury to determine if the case meets the probable cause standard of ‘homicide by vehicle,’” Chandler said in an e-mail.

The next grand jury convenes Jan. 21, he said.

Chandler declined further comment on the case.

“To protect the integrity of the grand jury proceedings, the state will make no further comment on this matter until the grand jury has issued their findings,” he wrote.

During the course of the investigation, Gallegos has remained on duty, assigned to work at the police department offices on Connelly Street.

The victim’s sister, Tita Romero, said Mary Castillo’s family was informed of the developments Thursday afternoon by Chandler and had a long discussion with him about the case.

She said though family members have been frustrated, they are now satisfied the case is moving forward.

“It’s almost two months,” Romero said. “I’m glad something’s going to get done now.”

Earlier in the day, frustrated with a lack of progress in the investigation, Castillo’s friends and family protested at the courthouse, district attorney’s office and police department.

Holding signs and chanting “We want justice, we want justice,” about a dozen of the 56-year-old woman’s loved ones walked back and forth.

Police said Gallegos was traveling more than 20 mph over the speed limit and failed to stop at a stop sign, causing the crash.

Protesters gathered just before 11 a.m. because they said they wanted to send a message to police and Chandler.

“I don’t think the police are doing what they need to be doing,” said Castillo’s younger brother, Ricky Martinez, during the protest.

Martinez said if it was anybody else involved in the case charges would already have been filed.