Ind. Woman Lashes Out During Sentencing - NBC Chicago

Ind. Woman Lashes Out During Sentencing

"I'm not the lowest of the low, as the prosecutor has labeled me," Engelica Castillo says in court



    The mother of Jada Justice reacts to her cousin being sentenced to life in prison without parole. (Published Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010)

    The woman convicted of killing her 2-year-old cousin lashed out at prosecutors who called her the "lowest of the low" during her sentencing in an Indiana courtroom on Thursday.

    "How dare someone put that lable on anybody," Engelica Castillo spouted off.  "You're not perfect."

    Castillo was given a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for the murder of her young cousin, Jada Justice, who was found burned and encased in concrete last year.

    In a deal with prosecutors, her then-boyfriend, 25-year-old Timothy Tkachik, agreed to plead guilty to two counts of neglect of a dependent for his involvement in the crime in return for testimony against Castillo. 

    He faces 20 to 50 years in prison when he's sentenced Friday, a punishment that Castillo clearly felt was unfair when compared to hers.

    "He couldn't keep his story straight.  He kept adding things," said Castillo, referring to Tkachik's testimony during the trial.

    Castillo testified that she felt threatened by Tkachik and was following his instructions.

    "You couldn't hear... what was said to me, the things he told me," she said.  "Tim told me, 'You'll be laying next to her.'  I know what he's capable of."

    Still, the plea had little impact on Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr., who questioned if Castillo understood "the magnitude of what's going on here."

    Aside from shaking her foot nervously, Castillo displayed very little, if any, remorse.  It was a point noted in the remarks from Justice's mother, Melissa Swiontek.

    "She got what she deserved.  She had so many chances, but she never said, 'I'm sorry,'" said Swiontek.

    A Lake County, Ind., jury last month took just two hours to convict the 20-year-old Hobart woman, who was babysitting Justice at the time of her death.

    Castillo told police June 18, 2009, she left Jada in the car at a Gary, Ind., gas station, where she went to get milk. When she came out the girl was gone.

    A week after the girl vanished, Tkachik led investigators to her body in LaPorte.  She'd been burned and encased in concrete.

    Tkachik testified that Castillo became irritated at the little girl for dumping a package of drink mix and spilling a container of syrup. Tkachik said an angry Castillo repeatedly struck the child.

    He admitted to striking the girl several times on the head and holding the toddler down while Castillo repeatedly struck her with a belt. Tkachik said that Jada stopped breathing while in a vehicle with him and Castillo and they failed to get medical help for the child.

    Full Coverage: Jada Justice