Tuesday, January 17, 2011
A local man known as Lou Castro who spent thousands of dollars buying dozens of expensive cars, motorcycles and even motor homes for his close friends is now in a federal holding cell awaiting possible murder charges. While Castro lived the high life, those who knew him say he didn't have a job and it seemed everyone around him was dying.
"He was somebody that people were suspicious of at the time," said Wichita attorney Martin Bauer.
Bauer became suspicious of Lou Castro in 2006.
"There were an unusually large number of deaths related to people who had been connected to this group of unconnected people living together," said Bauer.
That group of people lived in three homes the 9500 block of North Oliver Street. Neighbors call it a compound and say it was led by Castro, who lived in the main house.
The first death was Patricia Hughes in 2003. It was originally ruled an accidental drowning until last week when Sedgwick County Sheriff investigators changed Hughes' cause of death to first degree murder. Bauer says Hughes had a life insurance policy worth between $500,000 and $1 million.
Three years later, Patricia Hughes' husband Brian Hughes died when a car fell on him in South Dakota. His will left nothing to his then 5-year-old daughter. Instead, it gave everything to Jennifer Hutson and Kara Leimer, a couple of friends who lived in the so-called compound. Neither woman was a relative of the Hughes. His life insurance policy was worth $500,000.
In 2008, Hutson, who was caring for Brian Hughes' daughter, died in a car crash. She hit a gravel truck head-on in Butler County. Hutson also had a large life insurance policy. Brian Hughes had left instructions that if Hutson died, the girl was be in the care of by Kara Leimer.
Court documents show Leimer, Hutson's husband and the man going by the name Lou Castro then moved with the child to Tennessee. It was at that time the child's maternal grandparents hired Bauer to look into the matter.
"They were very concerned about the child remaining in the environment where so many apparently random deaths had occurred," said Bauer.
Officials say Castro's real name is Daniel Perez. He was convicted of child sex crimes in Texas in 1996. In 2001, Perez's sister, her 12-year-old daughter and her boyfriend all died in a plane crash in North Dakota. The crash was also ruled an accident.
Perez is currently in a holding cell in Oklahoma City awaiting extradition back to Kansas where he is expected to be charged with Patricia Hughes' murder. The Hughes' daughter is now in the custody of her grandparents. The court has ordered part of her father's life insurance money to be saved for her.