Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Public safety

2013: A deadly year in Hernando that included children as victims

It was the kind of crime scene that haunts detectives long after the case is closed.

Roseanna Sanson's bloody, bikini-clad body lay on the floor of her rented home in Hernando Oaks, south of Brooksville; her 9-month-old son Carter's body was not far away. Investigators say both had been stabbed to death by Sanson's boyfriend, Jamil Etayem, who then slit his own throat.

Just seven weeks later, deputies and detectives arrived to find two more children dead at the hands of their caretaker. Susie Castrillon, 8, and her 7-year-old brother, Sebastian, were fatally shot by their father, Daniel Castrillon, at the family's home in Trillium, southwest of Brooksville.

The disturbing murders are among the cases that made 2013 a busy year for detectives and forensics specialists at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

Though crime in Hernando continues on a general downward trend, the number of homicides and other high-profile cases "ebbs and flows" from year to year, said Hernando sheriff's Sgt. Phil Lakin, supervisor of the Crimes Against Persons unit.

This year, the cases flowed: seven homicide cases and nine victims.

That's not a record, and none of the cases were what Lakin calls "whodunits," requiring him to pull resources from throughout the Sheriff's Office to catch a killer.

But the statistics are noteworthy in other ways.

• Two of the three murder-suicides involved children.

• Two of the other homicides did not result in murder charges because prosecutors decided the shooters were justified in their actions.

• Three of the fatal shooting incidents happened in four days. Two of those — the same ones that didn't result in charges — happened less than 24 hours apart.

It all made for a busy year, Lakin said.

"We have a finite number of detectives, so we have to put more on the shoulders of one when we have bigger years," said Lakin, who supervises a staff of five investigators.

Part of their job, no matter the case, is to read the story told by the evidence at the scene, Lakin said. One case offers an example.

On May 23, Christopher Asciolla shot and killed 28-year-old Michael Challis in a bizarre incident in the front yard of Asciolla's Spring Hill home.

As Asciolla stood on the stoop, he saw a man, later identified as Challis, walking down the street with a large dog. Asciolla yelled for his own dog to come inside. Challis apparently thought Asciolla was yelling at him, crossed the street and started banging on the door.

Asciolla yelled through the door that he had a gun and warned Challis to leave. When the banging continued, Asciolla went back outside. His father, Robert Asciolla, followed with a handgun.

The Asciollas said Challis started a physical altercation with Robert. Christopher heard a gunshot and, thinking his father had been shot, pointed his gun at Challis and fired. The Asciollas said Challis had taken the Glock from the elder Asciolla and fired multiple times as he ran away.

Deputies found Challis dead about a block away.

Detectives and prosecutors concluded that forensic evidence corroborated the Asciollas' story. Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law gave Christopher Asciolla the right to go back outside and confront Asciolla instead of remaining in the secure confines of the house and calling 911, prosecutors said.

Murder-suicides can make for relatively straightforward investigations, especially when detectives find a note, as was the case in the deaths of young Susie and Sebastian Castrillon. Their father left a 21-word missive, apparently directed at his ex-wife and referencing her new boyfriend, in which he said he couldn't leave the kids "with you or with him."

"Any scene that you go to as a homicide investigator, you're there to honor the memory of the victim and do the best you can to give answers to the surviving family members as to how and why their family member was killed," Lakin said.

The same squad of deputies had responded to the Sanson murder-suicide just weeks earlier. Working murder scenes, especially when children are the victims, can exact a psychological toll. Turning to colleagues for support is helpful, Lakin said.

"We have to accept this is our calling and this is the job we do for the community in Hernando, and there are going to be some tough things we have to see," he said. "We all sit down together and talk about it, what we're thinking about it, what we feel about it, and I think that helps to process all of this."

Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

     
 
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