Las Vegas Sun

October 25, 2014

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Court rejects appeal of inmate who killed retired schoolteacher

Las Vegas killer William Castillo has lost another appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court in which he argued he doesn't deserve to die for the murder of an 86-year-old woman in 1995.

The court on Monday denied a rehearing of its decision in July that Castillo was entitled to a new penalty hearing.

He maintained that two of the four aggravating circumstances were invalid in arriving at the death penalty sentence.

The court said the remaining aggravating circumstances showed Castillo had previously been convicted of a felony and that he committed the "brutal" murder to avoid arrest.

He entered the home of retired schoolteacher Isabelle Berndt in December 1995, crushed her head with a tire iron and then smothered her with a pillow. He then set the house on fire. During the incident he took a box of silverware and a box of knit booties.

His accomplice Michelle Platou was sentenced to 20 years to life after pleading guilty to first-degree murder.

The court said jurors found mitigating circumstances of Castillo's youth at the time and he was under extreme emotional distress. He was in his early 20s at the time of the killing.

The court said, "We are confident that the jury would have concluded that the mitigating circumstances did not outweigh aggravating circumstances. We further conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury would have returned a death sentence after considering the evidence as a whole."

Justice Michael Cherry dissented, saying he would have allowed a rehearing of the court's original decision and sent the case back to the district court for another penalty hearing.

There has not been an execution in Nevada since April 2006.

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