- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 7, 2009

BALTIMORE | The trial of a Rockville man accused of drowning his three children in a Baltimore hotel bathtub got off to a rocky start Tuesday as lawyers spent hours wrangling over motions.

Mark A. Castillo, 43, is charged with first-degree murder in the March 2008 deaths of his children - Anthony, 6; Austin, 4, and Athena, 2. His attorneys contend that he is not criminally responsible for the slayings - Maryland’s version of an insanity plea.

Mr. Castillo told police he killed the children and tried to commit suicide by stabbing himself in the neck with a steak knife and swallowing pain pills.

Mr. Castillo has a history of mental illness, according to testimony and court records. He had been involved in a custody dispute with his ex-wife, a pediatrician, and told police he was motivated by the divorce.

Dr. Amy Castillo, the defendant’s ex-wife, was in court for part of Tuesday’s proceedings. She declined to comment through her attorney.

“After 18-plus months since the tragic crime, we’re just very pleased that the trial is actually going to get started,” said the Rev. Ezekiel Wharton, a family friend who is acting as Dr. Castillo’s spokesman. “This will give an opportunity for Amy to have another step towards closure from the tragic event.”

Jury selection was expected to begin Wednesday afternoon.

Part of Tuesday’s proceedings focused on whether a judge had ruled on the defense’s pretrial motions alleging that prosecutors made inappropriate statements to a state psychiatrist who found Mr. Castillo competent to stand trial.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Gale E. Rasin said that and other motions had been denied or found moot and that Mr. Castillo’s attorneys had ample time to ask another judge to set hearings on the motions if the attorneys thought they had not been handled properly.

Tuesday afternoon was spent reviewing questions for potential jurors and arguing a motion to suppress statements made by Mr. Castillo to police and to the trauma surgeon who treated him after the suicide attempt.

“He stated that ‘I tried to kill myself, but I didn’t do a very good job, so I tried again,’ ” Dr. David Gens testified.

Two detectives who took statements from Mr. Castillo are set to testify Wednesday.

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