- The Washington Times - Monday, March 31, 2008

BALTIMORE (AP) — A father who argued with his estranged wife over the custody of their three children confessed to drowning them in a hotel bathroom on the night he was to return them to their mother, Baltimore police said.

Mark A. Castillo, 41, of Rockville, faces prosecution on 15 charges, including three counts of first-degree murder and six counts of child abuse. He was charged about 1 p.m. today after his release from a hospital where he was treated for self-inflicted cuts to his neck, police said.

Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld and Mayor Sheila Dixon said the motive for the children’s deaths Saturday night was a mystery. While court records indicated Castillo and his wife, Dr. Amy Castillo, had disputes over their marriage and the children, Mark Castillo had no criminal history, Bealefeld said.

“It’s really inexplicable why,” he said.

However, Dr. Castillo wrote in court documents that her husband had threatened to make her suffer by killing the children. She sought a protective order Dec. 25, 2006, in Montgomery County District Court and asked that the court order Castillo to receive counseling.

“He has never actually hurt (the children), but did tell me that the worst thing he could do to me would be to kill the children and not me so I could live without them,” she wrote in the petition.

She also wrote that when her husband took the children for visits, he would not tell her where they were staying.

A temporary protective order was approved three days after the petition was filed, but Circuit Judge Joseph Dugan rejected a permanent order Jan. 10, 2007. In explaining his decision, Dugan wrote there was “no clear or convincing evidence that the alleged acts of abuse occurred.”

Police identified the children as Anthony, 6, Austin, 4, and Athena, 2.

Castillo spent time with the children Saturday afternoon at the Inner Harbor before checking into the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards about 5 p.m. Saturday. The children were drowned, one at a time, in the tub that night, Bealefeld said.

The father called the hotel front desk about 1:15 p.m. yesterday to say that he’d killed the children and was going to commit suicide. Police and firefighters responded to their 10th-floor room, and “they discovered the lifeless bodies of three small children,” Bealefeld said.

Castillo was supposed to return the children to their mother in Silver Spring at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Dr. Castillo called Montgomery County police shortly after the deadline to say that her husband had not returned the children, Bealefeld said. Baltimore police did not know how Montgomery County police responded, but said the cases were not connected until after the children’s bodies were found.

In Silver Spring, neighbor Maria Habesch, 79, said she went to a party a few years ago at the couple’s home. She described Mark Castillo as “very, very polite,” but said she hasn’t seen him in two years.

Habesch said she saw the children playing Friday in the front yard of their home.

“The situation, it paralyzes you,” she said. “It’s not easy, to know these little kids were jumping (around) and then they are gone.”

Monroe said the children’s bodies will be autopsied, but detectives made a preliminary conclusion that they were drowned based on the father’s statements and evidence in the room.

A police officer is guarding Castillo’s hospital room.

Bealefeld said police seized a laptop from the hotel room and planned to search a van in Baltimore. They were also searching Castillo’s home in Rockville.

Dixon said people in Baltimore would pray for children’s mother.

“Children are a gift from God. We will be asking ourselves, ‘Why, why could someone do this to three young, innocent children?”’ Dixon said, shaking her head.

Associated Press writers Stephen Manning in Rockville and Karen Mahabir in Washington contributed to this report.

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