Eastside gang member Joseph Castro, 23, was sentenced 4/6 to life in prison without parole for the shooting death of Ventura resident Kelly Hunt in February 2013. Castro’s codefendant, Isaac Jimenez, was sentenced to life last month. During this week’s hearing, Hunt’s family and friends addressed Castro and the court with a mixture of disdain and forgiveness.
Hunt’s cousin, Tawny Shor, described Hunt as kind and good-natured. He was far from perfect, she said, but had a big heart. Shor said Hunt’s murder left a dent in their family’s heart that will never heal. She said she wouldn’t wish the pain on her worst enemy. Shor called Castro and Jimenez “cowardly, worthless boys” and said directly to Castro, “I hope you enjoy your miserable life locked up with no freedom.”
Hunt’s grandmother, Josephine Nichols, recalled how she had lunch with Hunt two weeks before his death. He told her he wanted to get out of the gang life, but didn’t know how. It was too dangerous, he said. “You will never know or understand what you took from me,” Hunt’s mother, Janet Rector, told Castro. “Kelly was a good guy. … I miss my baby.” Rector said the ordeal has left her a detached shell of her former self. She prays every day, she said, and thinks Castro should too. “I hope God is listening to me, and I hope he’s listening to you.” A family friend thanked Castro for his testimony and said he can still seek mercy in the eyes of God.
Before Judge Brian Hill handed down the life sentence — mandated by state law after a jury found Castro guilty of first-degree murder with special circumstances — he talked about the “tremendous impacts” of the case. “Really, we see the destruction of two families,” he said. Two men have been lost, one to murder, the other to gangs. Hill told Castro even though he’s headed to prison, his life isn’t over. He can forge a new path of redemption and become productive behind bars. Other people have done it, and Castro can too, Hill said.
Castro’s attorney, Michael Hanley, indicated to Hill he plans to appeal the verdict. Castro declined to give a public statement during the hearing.