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Court records document separated couple's tumultuous relationship

The Baltimore Sun

ROCKVILLE -- More than two years ago, Amy Ashley Castillo pleaded for help in court papers, saying that her estranged husband had threatened to kill their three children to punish her by leaving her alone in the world.

"He has never actually hurt them," she wrote in a Montgomery County court complaint seeking a temporary protective order on Christmas Day 2006. "But he 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."

Hundreds of pages of documents as part of a pending divorce filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court illustrate the tumultuous relationship between Amy and Mark Castillo from the time their marriage began to falter in August 2005 to when their three children were found drowned in a downtown Baltimore hotel room on Sunday.

Mark Castillo, 41, of Rockville was charged yesterday with murder in the deaths of his children, Anthony, 6, Austin, 4, and Athena, 2. Police charging documents say he killed the children in the 10th-floor room of the Baltimore Marriott hotel because of his agony over the couple's protracted divorce and custody fight.

The couple, who were married in 1998 in Charleston, S.C., battled back and forth for years - he complaining that his wife wouldn't let him see the children and filing contempt of court charges against her; she saying repeatedly that he was an unfit father who might harm their children.

Father can see kids

A month after Dr. Amy Castillo filed for the temporary restraining order in December 2006, Montgomery County Circuit Judge Joseph A. Dugan Jr. denied her request for a full protective order, writing that there "is not clear and convincing evidence that the alleged acts of abuse occurred."

Mark Castillo retained visitation rights, despite a court-ordered psychological evaluation that found him to have mood and narcissistic personality disorders and borderline and histrionic personality traits. In June 2006, court records say, he threatened to commit suicide in a Virginia hotel room and was later detained involuntarily at Mary Washington Hospital for four hours. He also spent time at a psychiatric facility in Fredericksburg, Va.

In a court-ordered evaluation dated Oct. 10, 2006, Dr. C. David Missar wrote, "The acute risk of harm Mr. Castillo poses to his children is low, provided he continue with his psychotherapeutic treatments. Mr. Castillo has cared for, and continues to care for, his children and expresses love and concern for them."

Mark Castillo told Missar that he had trouble with authority and was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, and that the Air Force had granted him an honorable discharge in the mid-1980s. About the time of his Air Force discharge, he married and had a daughter, Castillo told the doctor. He was divorced about two years later.

The third of five children born to Mexican immigrants in Los Angeles, Mark Castillo had joined the Air Force after he graduated from high school. He was on active duty for three years of a four-year tour and was stationed in Missouri.

Afterward, while living in or near Kansas City, Mo., he worked as a mailman, owned a flower shop and dealt cards on a riverboat, Mark Castillo said.

Dugan and another judge who more recently denied a request to suspend Mark Castillo's access to the children could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But Sally Rankin, court information officer for the Maryland judiciary, said, "It's a pending case, and judges are precluded from speaking about pending cases by their code of judicial conduct."

Attorneys for both Amy and Mark Castillo did not respond to calls yesterday.

Records show strife

Court documents show a long history of turmoil in the relationship.

On Aug. 27, Amy Castillo wrote in an e-mail to her estranged husband: "I wish that I could be writing to you, to tell you that Athena got a toddler bed today," according to the court documents. "But unfortunately, I need to tell you that Anthony's therapist saw him Thursday after all the turmoil ... and is very concerned about the impact that your anger is having on him."

On May 12, the parents argued in the lobby of a McLean, Va., church after Mark Castillo attempted to remove the children from child care for a visit, according to court documents.

Amy Castillo later wrote in court documents: "He pulled away forcefully when I tried to pick up Austin. I then went behind the counter and stayed with the two other children, in order to prevent further physical interaction, and called 911. Someone else went to get security. The defendant told Anthony, the oldest child, that I was 'a bad mommy,' for not letting them go to dinner with him."

Psychological test

Also in May, Amy Castillo filed an emergency motion to suspend Mark Castillo's access to the children, pending a psychological evaluation. She cited a number of reasons for her request, including a previous alleged abduction attempt by Mark Castillo.

Noting her experience as a pediatrician, Amy Castillo wrote, "I do not want to wait until something traumatizing happens to the children, in order to prove to the court that I should have taken away visitation rights earlier. ... I have removed them from potentially dangerous situations, in order to avoid serious conflict."

Last summer, Circuit Judge Michael D. Mason denied Amy Castillo's emergency motion to end Mark Castillo's access to the children, though he granted her request to modify his visitation schedule for the coming school year.

As of that order, Mark Castillo was permitted to visit all three children Mondays and Wednesday from 11:45 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., picking them up at home and returning them there, according to court documents. He was also allowed to see them on alternate Saturdays from noon to 8:30 p.m.

Noting that the parents had "extreme difficulty in communicating, particularly about matters relating to the children," the judge appointed a parent coordinator to help them learn how to "communicate effectively," court documents state.

In October, Mason found Amy Castillo in contempt of court for violating the July 2 visitation order and imposed a $2,500 fine, along with the possibility of a $500 fine for any future day when she denied the children's father visitation, court records show.

In February, Circuit Judge John W. Debelius III granted Amy Castillo a limited divorce, in which there is no severance of the marital bonds, on the grounds of mutual and voluntary separation, court records show. Mark Castillo was ordered to pay monthly child support of about $1,200, according to court documents, and his request for alimony was denied.

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