Crime

Jury at Castoro trial sees photos, hears testimony about drugs, violence

A woman who woke one morning last June with mysterious injuries to her throat, hip and arm told an Ada County jury Tuesday that then-fiance Robert Castoro confessed to beating her in a drug-fueled rage at his Boise home.

Castoro, the 48-year-old owner of the popular Boise restaurant Barbacoa, has pleaded not guilty to charges of felony battery-domestic violence with traumatic injury and felony possession of a controlled substance.

A jury of 10 men and three women, including an alternate, was seated Monday in 4th District Court and heard opening arguments Tuesday. The victim was the first witness called.

The 30-year-old testified that she was drinking heavily and had taken anti-anxiety medication and possibly cocaine the night she was injured. She had a hazy recollection that she had argued with Castoro, so she confronted him the next day. She said he told her that he had beaten her “like a man would beat a man in a bar fight.” She said he apologized and promised to never do “Boise cocaine” again, so she did not notify authorities.

But her bruises caught the attention of police and staff a few days later at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center, where she was taken after police responded to a 911 call at the Castoro house in Southeast Boise.

At about 5:15 a.m., the woman had called paramedics because Castoro’s breathing appeared shallow after heavy drinking and she feared for his safety, she testified Tuesday. Paramedics determined that Castoro was in no imminent danger but were concerned at her distress and erratic behavior. A police officer who saw her attempt to take more anti-anxiety pills slapped the bottle out of her hand.

Jurors saw photos of the woman’s bruises: a deep purple, roughly 6-inch bruise on her right wrist and arm; a softball-sized bruise on her right hip; and faint redness on her throat.

Deputy Ada County Prosecutor Fafa Alidjani pointed out other bruises and skin discolorations that she said are not believed to be related to the case. Defense attorney Mark Manweiler questioned Castoro’s fiancee about alleged bouts of anger that caused her to harm herself, such as banging her head on the counter.

AUDIO OF INTERVIEW

The morning she was taken to the hospital, Boise police asked Castoro what he knew about her bruises. Audio from Boise Officer Andrew Linn’s interaction with Castoro was played in court. Castoro told Linn that he was very drunk, sleep deprived and had done cocaine each of the past three days.

Castoro said the bruises were a result of “kinky sex,” an explanation he repeated to police a half-dozen times. Linn didn’t ask for details and declined Castoro’s offer to show his own bruises, although he did note that Castoro had a quarter-sized bruise on a bicep.

Manweiler asked Linn in court Tuesday why he didn’t ask for specifics on how the bruises on the woman could have been caused during sex. Linn said he hadn’t seen photos of her so he didn’t feel he had enough information to pursue that line of questioning.

Linn also said he didn’t take photos of Castoro’s bruises because he felt Castoro gave a reasonable explanation for what had occurred.

Castoro’s ex-fiancee said she had never suffered injuries during rough sex, other than a small bruise. She said she did not believe the injuries she suffered were from sex.

The audio revealed that Linn and his partner were getting ready to leave Castoro‘s house when he told them that he and his fiancee had used cocaine, which he believed had been cut with other drugs that had caused adverse reactions.

Castoro told the officers that he had flushed the drug down the toilet but still had the vial. He took them back to his bedroom to get the vial and asked them to test it for impurities.

Linn said a test that he did on the vial found it to be “presumptive positive” for cocaine. Manweiler said subsequent tests at the state lab gave mixed results, with one test coming back inconclusive.

‘GREAT MAN’

Manweiler told the jury the couple had a “love-hate” relationship for more than two years and had broken up two or three times. Castoro flew to Las Vegas in April 2014 to propose, and they were set to be married in August.

Manweiler said Castoro was financially generous with his fiancee, supporting her throughout their relationship and for two months after they broke up (with $2,000 each of those two months). She testified that he gave her an engagement ring he said cost $50,000, and $20,000 to buy a wedding dress and accoutrements. Two of her brothers had worked at Castoro’s restaurant.

The mother of Castoro’s ex-fiancee testified Tuesday that Castoro called her the day after her daughter showed her the bruises. She said he blamed the beating on “bad cocaine.” She said she told him she wanted nothing more to do with him, but she never contacted police.

In questioning Castoro’s ex-fiancee, Manweiler asked about how she once described Castoro as a “great man.”

“And you still think that?” Manweiler asked

After a very long pause, she said, “Yes.”

When the prosecutor asked what she was thinking during that pause, she said, “I do think he’s a great man, and I will always have a love for him.”

The trial is expected to expected to take about four days.

Katy Moeller: 377-6431; Twitter: @KatyMoeller

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