Jury selection began today in the trial of a Hobart, Indiana woman accused of one of the most heinous local crimes in recent history.
Eighty-eight potential jurors were interviewed and four chosen, so far, to sit in judgment of Engelica Castillo, 20, who stands accused of murdering her two-year-old baby cousin, Jada Justice, in June 2009.
Castillo was babysitting Justice, in June 2009 when Castillo became irritated after Jada spilled a container of syrup. She then began beating the child, prosecutors say.
Castillo's boyfriend at the time, Tim Tkachik, 24, joined in and struck Jada in the head repeatedly while Castillo hit her with a belt. The two beat the child to death, prosecutors say.
Tkachik was charged with murder, battery and false informing, and neglect of a dependent. He led police to the body, which was found burned and encased in concrete in rural LaPorte County.
Tkachik is expected to testify as a witness in Castillo's trial. He faces 20 to 50 years in prison. Castillo has pleaded not guilty to murder charges, two counts of neglect of a dependent, battery and false informing in Jada's death.
Prosecutors are expected to finish their case by next week. The defense is not certain whether Castillo will take the stand in her own defense.
When asked asked about his client's defense, attorney Lemuel Stigler, simply said "stick around."
Lisa Huerta, Jada's Grandmother and Castillo's Aunt, said she heard from other family members that the possible defense could be some sort of mental disability. Huerta said the "the mental disability defense is bogus.".
Jada would have celebrated her 4th birthday on August 4th, Huerta says. The family plans to release balloons during a private celebration tomorrow.
Huerta wishes her niece, Castillo, had called someone else in the family to care for Jada she had so many other options.
"She could have called my sister, she could have called me."