By Kelsey Givens
Fresh details emerged in the murder of a Pahrump man after police arrested a second suspect in the case Friday.
Nye County Sheriff’s deputies arrested 35-year-old Sylvia Castillo on charges of destroying/concealing evidence and accessory to murder after she allegedly helped Peter J. Helfrich, 36, dispose of a body on Jan. 24.
According to a declaration of arrest for the woman, Castillo reportedly admitted to a Nye County detective that Helfrich told her he had killed his neighbor, a man named Salvador Gama, and convinced her that he needed her help in disposing of the body and corroborating his version of the story.
Castillo also allegedly admitted to helping Helfrich dispose of evidence after the incident occurred by burning items, including shoes, gloves, plastic bags, blankets, a tarp and a can of pepper spray, in a barrel still located at the scene of the crime.
The arrest report notes that Castillo was able to corroborate specific details of the case in her admission to police that she would have only known had she been part of the reported crimes.
Castillo told police she knew what she had done was wrong and that she was prepared to take responsibility for her actions. She was subsequently booked into the Nye County Detention Center and her bail was set at $100,000.
Police were first alerted to the case Thursday morning after receiving a report of a suicidal male at the Waterhole RV Park located at Fifth and East streets.
When two deputies arrived to check on the man, they met a crying Helfrich, who said he wanted to end his life because he had done “a terrible thing.”
The upset man then proceeded to tell officers that the victim in this case, who was reportedly Helfrich’s neighbor, had come over to his trailer, located in the desert near the 2900 block of E. Adkisson Road, around 10 a.m. the day before when the two men began drinking.
After a few hours, Helfrich said the neighbor began to threaten his life and threaten to rape his girlfriend, Castillo, before picking up a large sheathed knife and “coming at him,” with it.
Helfrich told police he tried to stop the other man’s attack by first spraying him in the face with bug spray and then pepper spray. When that allegedly did nothing to stop the man’s advances, Helfrich said he picked up a cross bow and tried shooting his neighbor in the chest. The cross bow apparently didn’t work either — Helfrich told detectives the arrow ricocheted off the man’s chest.
After trying three times to stop Gama, Helfrich said he finally picked up a metal baseball bat and struck the man twice in the side of the head, causing him to fall to the ground.
Helfrich told deputies he believed this all occurred sometime around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. that afternoon.
After hitting his neighbor in the head with the baseball bat, Helfrich said he waited for Castillo to return home, at which time he told her what he had done, adding he was unsure if the man was dead, but suspected he was.
According to Helfrich, Castillo told him no one would ever believe his side of the story and that they needed to dispose of the man’s body in the mountains where wild animals would eat it.
He said the two then placed the victim’s body in the rear of a Geo Tracker Jeep Helfrich was using and drove it approximately seven miles from his trailer where they dumped it off Wheeler Pass Road in Clark County before returning home. Despite Helfrich’s version of the story, the declaration of arrest noted he did not have any defensive wounds visible on his own body.
After describing to police the events of the previous day, Helfrich then took deputies to the scene of the murder outside his residence.
He reportedly showed officers a knife, still inside its sheath, which he claimed the victim used to threaten him, as well as a cell phone he said belonged to the victim.
A pool of coagulated blood was discovered on the ground where Helfrich said the attack occurred. Inside one of the trailers on the property, deputies reportedly found a dented metal baseball bat, which was consistent with having been used as Helfrich described.
The victim’s body was later located where Helfrich said he and Castillo dumped it. It appeared the man suffered severe blunt force trauma to the head and was found to have abrasions on his body and hands consistent with being injured in an altercation.
Castillo’s declaration of arrest notes evidence at the scene where the body was discovered corroborated Helfrich’s account of using the Geo Tracker to drive up to the area and dump the victim’s body.
Further investigation of the suspect vehicle used in the case revealed a concentrated effort was made to clean up any trace of evidence from the vehicle’s interior cargo area.
An independent witness in the case also reportedly told a NCSO detective that Helfrich called her earlier that day before the investigation began and told her what happened. During that conversation, the witness said Helfrich made conflicting statements regarding the threats his neighbor allegedly made, at one point indicating to this witness that he had been in possession of the knife and that the neighbor had been trying to take it away from him.
Helfrich was subsequently placed under arrest for first degree murder — he had previously been charged with involuntary manslaughter — destroying or concealing evidence, battery with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit a crime. He is being held without bail.
Both Helfrich and Castillo remained in custody as of Tuesday morning. The two are set to be formally arraigned in Pahrump Justice Court on Feb. 4.
NCSO detectives are continuing to follow up on several leads and the investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information pertaining to this case is urged to contact the Nye County Sheriff’s Office at 775 751-7000.
Further details on the victim, including his age and other information, are so far not being made public.