Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

Sentence in manslaughter case leaves no one happy

TAMPA — For the first time, the courthouse gathering wasn't about guilt or innocence.

That argument had grated at the Daniels and Castle families for more than a year, sparking Facebook fights and a church parking lot confrontation between the family of a slain teen and a mother who insisted her sons were framed.

Then last month, a jury decided that on Jan. 16, 2012, Roger Castle, then 17, gunned a pickup truck, dragging 19-year-old Chris Daniels alongside the car until he fell off and into a ditch.

Castle and his passengers, including brother Bailey Castle, then 16, left Daniels bleeding and alone. He died nine days later.

It may have been an accident, but Daniels' family is horrified no one helped. A quick response might have saved Chris' life.

At Friday's sentencing, they hoped for prison time for the Castles — and perhaps some sign of remorse.

Chris Daniels wasn't a perfect teenager, they said. Evidence showed he had gone to meet the Castles to sell them marijuana. But he was loved by a large family, whose home base is Thonotosassa.

"He held the door for people at Walmart. He left change for homeless people to find at gas stations," said his mother, Christine Daniels. "He was a decent man."

Since Chris' death, his father, Marvin Daniels, can't shake a particular nightmare. In it, he's running after the truck, trying to catch up before Chris falls.

By the time he saw his son at the hospital, the teenager was in a coma.

The Castle brothers sat together at the defense table, listening to tales of grief. The young men's parents sat in benches behind them.

Their mother, Carla Castle, has been their most vocal supporter, the one who insisted her boys, now ages 18 and 19, were innocent.

But on Friday she stood behind a lectern and simply told the judge: "I know I raised these boys to be good boys. They are good boys. They're sorry for what happened.

"This was never intended. I know it was a bad thing. But they are good, good boys. They really are."

Then she looked back at them and shrugged.

Bailey Castle told his attorney he was too nervous to speak, but Roger Castle wanted to talk. Dressed in a blue-checkered dress shirt, he quietly said he was sorry.

"I'm just as sad as everyone (about) what happened," he said. "Even though you don't think I am. … I think about it all the time."

Last month, jurors convicted Roger Castle — the truck's driver — of manslaughter, theft and possession of marijuana.

On Friday, Circuit Judge William Fuente sentenced him to four years in prison as a "youthful offender."

Bailey Castle stood convicted of theft and possession of marijuana.

For him, Fuente withheld adjudication and sentenced him to two years of community control, followed by three years of probation.

Bailey Castle cannot drive or consume alcohol or drugs. And like his brother, he must submit to random drug tests.

No one left happy. The judge warned them that would likely happen.

"Some will think I was too lenient. Some will think I was too harsh," Fuente said.

Roger Castle, who had been out on bail, is headed to Florida state prison.

Bailey Castle headed back to jail.

Though he is free on the dragging death, he faces a handful of charges accrued since Chris Daniels' death, including drug charges and DUI with serious bodily injury.

He has a hearing on that charge next week.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

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