ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. – The Thornton man accused of buying a 15-year-old girl from her father and having sex multiple times a day for several months, will face trial for human trafficking and sexual assault.
Adams County Judge Michael Cox bound over 43-year-old Erik Castillo’s case to District Court, following a Preliminary Hearing on Thursday.
Castillo has been formally charged with Trafficking of a Minor for Sexual Servitude, Sexual Assault on a Child by one in a position of trust, Sexual Assault on a Child by one in a position of trust with a pattern of abuse, and Sexual Assault with a 10-year Age Difference. The first three charges are felonies, but the latter is a misdemeanor.
Prosecutors called just one witness during the Preliminary Hearing.
Trooper Penny Gallegos, a 23-year veteran of the Colorado State Patrol, told the court that she was assigned to the Innocence Lost Task Force, which investigates human trafficking.
Gallegos said they received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that the young teenager may have been sold to Castillo by her own father and that she was living with Castillo.
Investigators tracked Castillo to a mobile home on the 1600 block of E. 78th Avenue in Thornton. They later learned that the suspect was receiving services for a child.
Gallegos said she went to Castillo’s home to ask him about his car, telling him that it had been involved in a traffic infraction in Aurora.
When the suspect went into his house to retrieve his driver’s license, Gallegos got a glimpse of the girl sitting on the sofa.
She asked to speak to the girl, who was then escorted out to the trooper’s vehicle.
Castillo gave the trooper the girl’s birth certificate and a medical form from Denver Health. It indicated that the girl was pregnant. He also gave her a note from the girl's father indicating that she had permission to be with Castillo in the U.S.
The girl told investigators she met Castillo on Facebook.
She said they exchanged photos, but the photos Castillo sent were not of him, Gallegos said. They were someone else’s pictures that he downloaded from the internet.
Gallegos said the girl told investigators that Castillo paid her father $100 a month. He also apparently paid her bus fare to Colorado.
Court documents state that Castillo is not a blood relative, but that her father told her she “should call him ‘uncle.’”
“We had no idea that human slavery was going on,” said neighbors Rob Curtis and Donna Benet. “He seemed like an okay guy.”
Benet told Denver7 that she thought Castillo was living by himself.
“I guess he kept her pretty tucked out of the way.”
Curtis snapped several photographs as police made the arrest.
“He had just moved in,” Curtis said. “A few months later, all these cops are rolling up and FBI Agents. We thought 'something big is going on here.'”
The tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children apparently came from the girl’s brother.
Trooper Gallegos testified that the girl was 7 weeks pregnant when they first talked to her.
“She said she never left the house, except to go with Castillo to the grocery store,” Gallegos said.
Under cross examination, Gallegos said the girl admitted that she wasn't being held against her will.
"But she said, she 'had nowhere else to go,'" the trooper added. "She said she wasn’t going to school and had no plans to."
Castillo will remain held on bond pending his next court appearance, November 16.