Prosecutors detailed the horrific early morning events that lead to the mysterious killing and dumping of a young woman for the first time in court Monday, revealing what happened in the final hours before her death.
Paul Castro, 27, a documented gang member charged with murder and assault in the killing of 23-year-old Antonia Herrera, could face 69 years to life in state prison if convicted. At his arraignment, he pleaded not guilty. A judge ordered him held on $3 million bail.
Herrera's body was found on Jan. 12 on the side of the road in the 27600 block of Champagne Boulevard, near the Interstate 15, in unincorporated Escondido, authorities said.
At Castro's arraignment Monday, Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe outlined the events leading up to Herrera's death.
Watanabe said their investigation led them to Las Vegas. Herrera had gone to the city days before her death and was driving back to San Marcos with her boyfriend, two witnesses and Castro in the hours before her death.
Castro, who has a history of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and methamphetamine use, said he believed the victim and her driver were trying to kill him, Watanabe said.
At one point, when the driver was getting off into a wooded area, Castro began getting paranoid, Watanabe said.
Herrera told Castro not to freak out -- and that's when he snapped, Watanabe said.
Castro allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Herrera three times. The bullets went through her torso, Watanabe said. Another bullet grazed her boyfriend as he leaned over to try and protect her.
After the shooting, Castro told the driver to pull over and dump the body. Authorities later found her body on the side of the road in unincorporated Escondido.
Castro then demanded the driver take him back to Las Vegas.
Castro was later arrested in Las Vegas and extradited to San Diego on Friday. The two witnesses in the car are expected to testify at a later date.
Castro will next appear in court on April 3 for a preliminary hearing.