By Kelsey Givens
Despite her adamant protests and threats to bring a lawsuit, a woman charged as an accessory to murder was ordered this week to see a District Court judge about a possible free trip to a mental hospital.
Sylvia Castillo, 35, who is facing charges of accessory to murder and destroying/concealing evidence, appeared in Pahrump Justice Court Tuesday for a hearing on whether or not the court was going to grant a motion filed by the District Attorney’s Office to have Castillo sent for an evaluation of her ability to stand trial on the charges against her.
The motion was submitted to the court last month after Chief Deputy District Attorney Kirk Vitto said he had serious concerns over Castillo’s ability not only to aid in her own defense, but of her competency at the time the alleged charges in the case occurred.
Castillo was taken into custody in early February after she allegedly admitted to a Nye County Sheriff’s detective that she helped her boyfriend, Peter J. Helfrich, 36, dispose of the body of Salvador Gama after Helfrich allegedly killed him with a baseball bat.
At the duo’s formal arraignment in the case, Helfrich and his attorneys entered their own conditional waiver of a preliminary hearing after Helfrich told his council he suffers from mental health issues and may need to be evaluated.
A motion to have Castillo evaluated as well was not submitted to the court until her next court hearing on Feb. 19.
At that time, Vitto told the court he was concerned a previous head injury Castillo sustained when her co-defendant hit her in the head with a machete, the fact she is currently pregnant and has been sent for an evaluation previously in another case may affect her ability to proceed any further through the justice system.
The prosecutor added on top of all those concerns he also had obtained information from Nye County Detention Center deputies that Castillo had recently written a letter, in which she allegedly stated she believed her unborn child was some kind of demonic entity.
Though Castillo’s attorney Carl Joerger balked at the idea of having his client, who had just been deemed competent less than six months earlier, sent for yet another evaluation, he decided to go along with the state’s request this week, telling the court it would be in everyone’s best interest to determine whether she truly is competent once and for all.
“Your honor I spoke to Mr. Vitto and his staff as well last week, telling them we would not be opposing this motion,” he said. “This would be in her best interest to show whether she is competent or not,” Joerger explained.
Though council on both sides felt having Castillo conditionally bound over to the district court to have a competency evaluation conducted would be in everyone’s best interest, Castillo argued vehemently that she would not be going back to Lakes Crossing for yet another evaluation.
“I am definitely going to file a lawsuit. I am competent to stand trial, I do not have a speech impediment and I would like the detective to bring the recorder of what I said and as well I have my writing, the extension of my writings, and I am not stepping not one foot inside Lakes Crossing and I am not guilty,” she told the court.
“I am not going to Lakes Crossing. I am not taking the psychiatric exam, that’s why I wrote that letter for you to read and I am not going to take an evaluation. You should go to Lakes Crossing and see how it feels there. … The DA and Justice of the Peace Ron Kent don’t have the power, I will not go to Lakes Crossing. I am filing a lawsuit,” she said.
Despite her protests, Kent decided to grant the conditional waiver of a preliminary hearing and bind Castillo up to the District Court for a mental competency evaluation to be ordered.
As Castillo began to protest his decision once again, Kent told her it wasn’t for her to decide and the decision had already been made.
“Madam you can do whatever you want, but you’re not calling the shots in this particular proceeding. Your actions are why you’re here today, so you’re not going to be making any more decisions on this matter,” he said.
Castillo is scheduled to appear for an arraignment in District Court on April 8 at 9 a.m.
Should she be deemed competent to stand trial in the case, she will be remanded back down to the Justice Court for a preliminary hearing.