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Murder trial gets underway with opening statements


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Following nearly two days of jury selection, the trial of a man charged with murder in the 2017 death of his wife got underway late Tuesday in New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District Court in Chaves County.

Castulo Michael Aragon (Submitted Photo)

Prosecutors from the Office of the New Mexico Attorney General and attorneys for the defendant, Castulo Michael Aragon, 59, made their opening arguments, marking the start of a trial that is expected to last until July 2.

Castulo Aragon is charged with one count of first-degree murder, willful and deliberate; and three counts of tampering with evidence in connection with the death of his wife, 49-year-old Maria Aragon, on or about March 4, 2017.

The body of Maria Aragon — a deaf and hearing specialist with the Roswell Independent School District — was found beaten, strangled and stabbed in the early morning hours of March 6, 2017 along U.S. Highway 285 about 50 miles north of Roswell.

Prosecutors allege that Castulo Aragon killed his wife and then disposed of her body. Before opening statements were given Monday, Bryan McKay, one of three prosecutors in the case, said it is estimated that about 30 witnesses will be called by the state to provide testimony.

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When asked Monday, Richard Pugh, one of Castulo Aragon’s attorneys, said it had not been decided whether the defense would call any witnesses or if his client would testify.

In her opening statement, Ashley Schweitzer, assistant attorney general with the Office of the New Mexico Attorney General, said physical evidence, DNA evidence, blood, cell phone information, financial evidence, photographs and video footage will show that Castulo Aragon killed his wife and disposed of the evidence.

“At the end of this case we’re going to show you how all the evidence came together to show that the man sitting here before you today is guilty of willful and deliberate murder of his wife, Maria Aragon,” Schweitzer said.

Included in the evidence, Schweitzer said, would be cellphone records showing that between 6:30 and 7 a.m. pings from Castulo Aragon’s cell phone were moving down Highway 285 just hours before Maria Aragon’s body was found.

She added that surveillance video from Transwestern Pipeline Company north of Roswell would be shown to the jury in which a white Honda CRV — matching the description of the one owned by Maria Aragon — was seen driving on U.S. Highway 285.

Schweitzer also mentioned that hours after Maria Aragon’s body was found, police executed a search warrant on the Aragons’ 1700 block of West Alameda Street home, where traces of blood were found in Maria Aragon’s Honda CRV and in the laundry room of the house.

She added police also executed a search warrant on a trailer Castulo Aragon owned on Seward Avenue, where they found duct tape, newspaper and a paper bag in a trash can stained with blood, which later was found to be a positive DNA match to that of Maria Aragon.

The prosecution, Schweitzer said, would also focus on Castulo Aragon’s behavior when he learned of his wife’s death. Schweitzer said this will include audio of police interviewing Castulo Aragon on March 6 in which he allegedly referred to his wife in the past tense before learning that she had been found dead, and his response to the news.

“What you are going to hear is that there was no shock, no surprise, there were no tears, there was no heartache,” she said.

Schweitzer said the prosecution would also look at Castulo Aragon’s alleged behavior the day after the incident, which included him going to a local car dealership to ask a car salesman if Honda CRVs can be tracked or have GPS, and packing up all his belongings.

Pugh argued that some of the evidence presented by the prosecution does not prove the state’s case and falls below the standard needed to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.

He denied the Honda CRV captured in the video was Maria Aragon’s vehicle because, he said, the video will show that all vehicles on the road at that time were heading north, away from Roswell.

He said blood found on Castulo Aragon’s boots that was mentioned by the prosecution in their opening arguments was so small that it could not be tested. Pugh also said that  on March 5, 2017, Maria Aragon’s then-teenage son was with Castulo Aragon from 3:30 p.m. that day until 1 a.m.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.