A quiet and, at times, seemingly disinterested Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez received a 50-year prison sentence Friday for his role in the disappearance from Spencer and death of a Estherville teenager almost 11 years ago.
Joni Ketter, the mother of murder victim Gregory Sky Erickson, addressed the court Friday at the Clay County Courthouse, asking the maximum sentence possible for Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez, who was convicted of kidnapping, conspiracy and second-degree murder in her son's death.
Castillo-Alvarez was the last of 10 people charged in the June 1997 plot to end 15-year-old Gregory Sky Erickson's life over an unpaid drug debt and his possible role as a police informant.
Judge Don Courtney found the former Estherville restaurant owner guilty of second-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony in a January trial in Palo Alto County.
The murder charge carries a 50-year sentence in prison. Castillo-Alvarez, who is 38, must serve at least 35 years of the sentence. He will be 73 years old before parole can be considered.
Courtney allowed him to serve the sentence for murder, the possible 25-year sentence for kidnapping and the 10-year sentence for conspiracy at the same time. The Algona judge had the option to make Castillo-Alvarez complete time on the murder charge before starting the clock on his kidnapping and conspiracy charges.
"I believe in my heart that the sentences should have been consecutive and that there should never be a chance that he'll ever walk as a free man," Ericksons', mother, Joni Ketter, said after the hearing. "But the fact is: It is mandatory that he is going to be spending 35 years in prison. He'll be in his 70s by the time he is out, so I think I'll find some solace in that."
Castillo-Alvarez had the opportunity to address the judge or Erickson's parents. He declined. He briefly waved to his supporters in the courtroom as deputies escorted him out.
Castillo-Alvarez also seemed distracted during the court process, at one point telling a court interpreter "I'm not really paying attention to what the judge said."
Mike Williams is the Assistant Public Defender who handled the case on behalf of Castillo-Alvarez. He thinks the absence of Castillo-Alvarez from the most violent parts of the crime may have factored into the judge's sentencing philosophy.
Castillo-Alvarez has 30 days to file a notice of appeal, which he is expected to do.
Investigation shows that Castillo-Alvarez was in the United States illegally and operated his Estherville restaurant under his brother's name, Ricardo Castillo. The Mexico Lindo restaurant also served as a front for his drug operation. Drugs were stored in a broken cooler, marijuana and methamphetamine left the building in food take-out bags and weapons, including the gun used to kill Erickson, were hidden above the ceiling tiles.
Erickson became friends with members of Castillo-Alvarez's inner circle. He also developed an addiction to methamphetamine -- a fact Ketter was candid about in her victim impact statement.
"I really just wanted parents to be aware of this drug," she said after the hearing. "It's still here. I also just wanted people to know Sky was really a very cool kid."