BROOKSVILLE — Maria Macdalena Castillo told detectives she didn't know she was pregnant. When she started giving birth in the shower in late April, she became scared. And then she acted, according to police.
Castillo, a 27-year-old resident of Tanglewood Apartments in Brooksville, is accused of placing her baby girl in a trash bag shortly after birth and then hiding the girl in her room, partially covered by clothing.
Briefly alive, the girl's cause of death was listed as asphyxiation, hemorrhage and inattention at birth. It was ruled a homicide, according to Brooksville Police Chief George Turner.
"It's a very gruesome, hard-to-understand crime," Turner said.
Castillo was arrested Wednesday and charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child. She was being held at the Hernando County Detention Center in lieu of $30,000 bail.
Turner said the delay in her arrest was partially because police were waiting for the medical examiner to confirm whether the child was alive at the time of birth.
Authorities say Castillo gave birth to the girl early on April 28. Instead of calling family members or emergency personnel, she put the child in a plastic trash bag and went to her bedroom. There, the newborn remained in the trash bag on the floor for about an hour, partially covered so she would be concealed from view, police said.
Turner said Castillo shared the apartment with her mother and Castillo's adult siblings, all of whom apparently did not know Castillo was pregnant. They did not learn that she was pregnant until her brother went to take a shower that day and discovered what had happened, Turner said.
Her family went to the room and got Castillo to open the door, finding the partially covered baby. The brother started CPR, and the mother called 911. Emergency personnel arrived and continued to perform CPR. The baby girl, described as full-term, was then pronounced dead at the scene.
At Tanglewood Apartments on Wednesday evening, several people who were gathered outside Castillo's apartment declined to comment to the Times. Nearby, news trucks gathered in the grass, and neighbors drove by to see what was going on.
Two of those neighbors, Bertha Brown, 74, and her daughter, Amy, 19, were driving home from a grocery shopping trip.
The Browns said they frequently saw Castillo riding her bike up and down their street — Wood Drive — with a man who looked to be the same age. They wouldn't speak much beyond the usual pleasantries, but the Browns said they remember seeing Castillo since Amy was little.
They described Castillo as quiet, to herself. About three months ago, they had noticed she'd started gaining weight. They didn't think she was pregnant, though, and were even more shocked to hear of the baby's fate.
"I don't believe she knew what she did," said Amy, patting her own pregnant belly. She is seven months pregnant with a girl and already has a name picked out: Iviana.
Castillo's little girl never was given a name.
Contact Danny Valentine at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes. Contact Kathryn Varn at email@example.com or (352) 754-6114. Follow @kathrynvarn.