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Beach man pleads guilty to lower homicide charge in case where two men were playing with gun

A 23-year-old Beach man pleaded guilty to accidentally shooting and killing his friend and then lying to law enforcement last year during a change of plea hearing in front of Southwest District Court Judge William Herauf on Thursday morning.

Gabriel Alex Castro, who is charged with the murder of Richard Young, a Class AA felony. Castro allegedly shot Young in the head on XXXXX. He's also charged with hindering law enforcement and giving false information to a law enforcement officer.
Gabriel Alex Castro

A 23-year-old Beach man pleaded guilty to accidentally shooting and killing his friend and then lying to law enforcement last year during a change of plea hearing in front of Southwest District Court Judge William Herauf on Thursday morning.

Gabriel Castro-who was originally charged with murder, a charge that was later downgraded to manslaughter-pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, a Class C felony and Class A misdemeanor providing false information to law enforcement. He was also previously charged with hindering law enforcement, a charge that was dismissed at an earlier hearing.

Castro allegedly shot Richard Young, 24 of Beach, in the head with a 1911 .45-caliber pistol on or around June 6, 2016 at Young's residence. Young died on June 10, 2016.

Castro had initially told Golden Valley County Sheriff's officials that Young had shot himself. However, he later confessed otherwise to an agent with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation on June 24.

Golden Valley State's Attorney Christina Wenko said she has had multiple conversations with the victim's guardian about the amended charge. Wenko said the guardian understands the circumstances of the case and told her to get as much as she possibly could.

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Wenko said she has also had conversations with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations about the deal and that they also were in agreement with the plea deal.

Castro's attorney Kevin McCabe wished for his client to enter an Alford plea, as Castro allegedly did not want to plead guilty to killing Young. An Alford plea is a guilty plea in criminal court, where a defendant in a criminal case does not admit to the criminal act and asserts innocence. The defense may believe there is a possibility they would lose should the case go to trial.

"We believe that we have a very good case at trial," McCabe told Herauf. "This is a hard case for Mr. Castro to determine that we wanted to take the plea. We believe that he's got a great defense and if put in front of jury it would be 50-50, but he just wants this to be over with."

While McCabe recalls having a conversation about entering an Alford plea, Wenko said she does not believe this was the case. Herauf said he did not believe an Alford plea was appropriate in this case.

Castro asked the judge if he could apologize for what he did. Herauf said by asking if he could was in itself an apology.

Herauf also asked Castro to explain what happened that night in his own words.

"I went over to my friend's house and me and him started playing with his gun and I accidentally shot him," he said. "I ended up lying to the cops and telling them a long story, but I ended up telling the truth. I know what I did was wrong."

Castro said he did not know the gun was loaded, but did point it at Young.

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While the prosecution and defense did not believe a pre-sentence investigation was necessary, due to Castro's small criminal history, Judge Herauf requested that one be done within 60 days. Shortly after that time span, a sentencing hearing will be held.

The state recommended that Castro serve 10 years in prison with six years suspended, which means Castro would serve four years at the North Dakota Department of Corrections. He would also receive credit for time served, which as of Thursday was approximately 351 days. The judge will decide at the sentencing hearing whether or not he would like to accept that sentence. If he does not accept the sentence, the defense would have the opportunity to withdraw its guilty plea and take the case to trial.

Related Topics: CRIME
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