On February 1st 2008, Steven Castanedo was arrested & charged with the murder in Sarasota, Florida, of his long time friend Juan Taveras. Five days later, on 6th February he was re-charged with 2nd degree murder with a firearm.
Another friend Matthew, that was also at Juan’s house, stated that Steven unexpectedly came to the house and shot and killed Juan.
However in the same statement Matthew said that himself, Juan and Steven talked about their plans for the night before the shooting supposedly occurred.
Neighbors heard gun shots and came outside in time to see a boy running from the driveway who was later identified as Matthew. The neighbours said that a few minutes later they saw a white truck with several occupants.
When Matthew was questioned by the police a blame game started.
Steven was later taken into custody for questioning which should have not have happened without a parent present since he was aged 17, still a minor.
Steven told detectives he would not talk until his grandparents were present. He was then told that his mother had given verbal permission by telephone.
An interrogation then took place where Steven did not confess to any crime, he simply told them he was at home and denied the allegations. The detectives nevertheless arrested him on the word of Matthew,
On February 6th 2008 he was re-charged with murder in the 2nd degree with a firearm. Detectives said they found the owner of the truck that was in the neighborhood at the time of the alleged crime and found that the guys in the truck were friends with Steven & the victim Juan.
One of the guys in the truck led them to a gun that was thrown over a bridge into a lake, The truck was in the neighborhood because they were there to purchase marijuana from Juan, according to neighbors .
Juan’s house was a party house with constant traffic, loud noise all the time, and it was later established that he was selling marijuana. When detectives went to Juan’s house they found marijuana and paraphernalia.
When friends were interrogated they all said Steven was not the shooter but detectives kept saying yes he was, we know your lying and told these friends that they would be arrested for conspiracy if they didn’t say that Steven was the shooter.
The police had no physical evidence against Steven, the only evidence was three witnesses, of whom one later recanted her statement.
Detectives went to Stevens house and collected his clothes and shoes to send to forensics to check for blood, gun residue or any DNA that could place him at the crime.
They also tested his hands for gun residue to see if he fired a weapon. All tests came back NEGATIVE.
A few days before trial, Steven’s attorney asked for the trial to be continued (delayed). The attorney had been working on another homicide case, and had not taken depositions of the witnesses.
The judge refused, and told him he has to either plead guilty with a sentence of 35 years ( 25 year minimum) or take it to trial that Monday, with a possible life sentence.
The attorney turned to Steven Castanedo and said “I think it is in your best interest to take the plea”. Steven was coerced into taking that plea or going to trial with an un-prepared attorney that knew nothing about the case and get sentenced to LIFE, so being 17 and knowing nothing about the law he took his attorney’s advice and plead guilty.
When the judge asked Steven at sentencing “Was your plea made knowingly and voluntary” Steven replied “I had no choice”, then asked did you ever want to take the plea Steven said “No”, did you feel you were being coerced Steven said “I did”, they asked what did you want in this particular case Steven said “A fair trial”. The Judge still sentenced him.
[ Transcripts are available ]
Related by Tammy Evonne Donnally, November 2014
Note, via Tammy
In Steven’s Uncle’s statement he stated he saw him get into a truck and leave he never stated in the statement anything about a white towel. He says the truck was definitely a white truck with a business advertisement on the back.The only friend Steven said he has with a truck was not at his house that paticular day and he drives a silver truck with no advertisement. The uncle stated a white truck pulled up with an advertisement of some business. Steven states he doesnt know anyone with such a truck. His uncle is in his late 60’s middle 70’s that had muliple laser eye surgery, he doesnt live in the same home as Steven he lives in a house across the street, how could he have seen Steven leave? How could he have seen a white towel? How does he even know it was Steven? Who knows if it was the same day in paticular? He stated it was a white truck with advertisements. Steven has no friends with such a truck, the moral of the statement is how could he identify anyone or anything by looking out a window from across the street and has had multiple eye surgerys, he wanted his lawyer to get records from his eye doc to prove how bad his eyes really are but attorney never had time to talk to him, it could have simply been a business truck in the neighborhood doing something and it was just a coincidence.
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