MENDOTA, California – A 14-year-old with a baby face told investigators he drowned his 4-year-old neighbor in a bathtub then hid the body in a dryer because the child was going to reveal the teen molested him, according to an affidavit released when he appeared in court Wednesday.
Raul Renato Castro, dressed in a purple T-shirt issued at the juvenile jail, appeared emotionless while staring at his hands in Fresno County Superior Court.
He was guarded by five bailiffs and two officers outfitted in paramilitary gear.
"He won't cry, he won't cry, he won't," said a woman who identified herself as his aunt but refused to give her name because she said the family had received death threats. Police could not confirm there had been threats.
Police said searchers found Alex Mercado on Saturday stuffed in the clothes dryer in the small farm town of Mendota.
The affidavit said Castro, a student at Mendota Junior High School, initially told police he knew nothing of the boy's disappearance. When investigators said the boy had been found in the dryer, the teen suggested someone had broken into the house and put him there.
Castro eventually told police he had enticed the dimpled, brown-eyed boy into his house across the street and sodomized him, the affidavit states. He said he killed Mercado after the child fell and hit his head, started crying, then threatened to tell his mother, the document states.
"Castro said he panicked and decided to kill the victim by drowning him in the bathtub," the affidavit says.
The teen, who is 5-feet tall and weighs 170 pounds, put Mercado's body over his shoulder and carried him to the dryer, hoping everything "would go away," the affidavit states.
Castro had been scheduled for arraignment as an adult on charges of first-degree murder, sodomy, child molestation, kidnapping and murder to silence a witness.
The arraignment was rescheduled for Tuesday after his acting public defender, Kathy Marousek, said she had not seen the paperwork.
"He told me he was scared," said Marousek, who spoke with the teen as he sat in the jury box. "He could be in shock."
Marousek said after the hearing that she doubted the teenager understood the Miranda Rights read to him by investigators, which could put his confession in doubt.
Earlier the teen had nodded without expression when Judge Jon Kapetan asked him if he understood the proceedings. Bail was set at $2.1 million.
California law says suspects 14 and older can be charged and tried as adults. About 20 percent of murders in the state are committed by people between the ages of 11 and 17.
Castro, who turned 14 on July 29, cannot face the death penalty but could be sentenced to as long as 47 years-to-life if convicted.