Tawny the Rock Chick here, your resident true crime aficionado.  As interesting as I find true crime from all over to be, it’s the local stuff that I can really dig into.  You could say I’m a bit obsessed with researching stories of murder and missing persons from this area.  I’ve spent countless hours reading old newspapers articles, requesting files on cases and sifting through data cases online regarding homicide cases that you probably didn’t even know existed.  This area holds more sordid secrets than you may know and I’m going to tell you about all of them, one day at a time.  It’s 365 Days of Texas True Crime and todays story goes like this…..

Whenever I hear about a young person committing a crime like murder I always assume, or at least I used to assume, that they must have had a bad up-bringing.  I've gone back and forth in the past with whether or not an action like that committed by a child, can be the result of parenting.  I'm talking about 16 years of age and below, which doesn't mean I don't consider the ages 16 to 18 not a child....because in my opinion they're juveniles as well.  I'm just saying it's a hard thing to wrap your mind around when you hear about a 15 year old killing an entire family, which is exactly what people were hearing in the Spring of 1986 in El Paso, Texas.

I think we all kinda just assume when a kid that young does something that crazy, there must be someone else to blame and parents are normally the first people we look to when we try to figure out what went wrong.  I'm getting way ahead of myself.

In March of 1986 a family of four was found dead in their home after calls from family members went unanswered.  The family lived in a low-income housing development in central El Paso.

Jose Castorena 36, Luz Elena Castorena 34, Fabian Castorena 15 and Ruby Castorena 11, were all found around 1 pm on a Saturday, March 8th, 1986.  It was just a couple of months ago that that same family was likely all sitting around the 200 lb, tube TV (you know the ones) watching about the Challenger space shuttle that was broke apart 73 seconds after it took off, killing all 7 members of the crew on January 28th.

screenshot of Challenger space shuttle explosion

Here they were, all together again, in the worst possible way.

The family was quite, according to neighbors and family.  They were hard working and kept to themselves.  Jose Castorena was attending school at the University of Texas at El Paso, he was an engineering major taking a few courses and was almost finished with his schooling.  Luz was a house wife as far as we know, taking care of the kids, Fabian who was 15 at the time and Little Ruby, who was just 11 years old, the same age my son is now.

Screenshot of picture taken at Castorena funeral

The family was found shot once in the head each, in different rooms of the small apartment.  It only took a few days before a suspect was found and taken into custody.  The alleged murder weapon as well was found, as the home of a friend of the suspect. It was a 12-gauge pump action shotgun. It would come out later that the friend whose home the gun was found at, sold the suspect some shot gun shells in the days preceding the murders.

The suspect was 15 year old Henderson Junior High honor student, Jesus Soltero Jr, Fabian Castorenas best friend.  Just days after the bodies of the family of four was found police question Jesus, a young man known to be best friends with one of the younger victims, Fabian Castorena.  They went to school together and walked home together every day.  Neighbors said they were both quite boys that never caused any trouble and really didn't talk to anyone else, mostly kept to themselves, like the rest of the family at 201 Alicia Dr. did.  As police were questioning Soltero they observed some traces of blood on his shoes.  A motive was undisclosed until the testimony from a juvenile probation officer at a detention hearing for Soltero was released where the officer, Jerry Draughton, testified that Soltero had told homicide detectives the he "killed Fabian after Fabian killed his mother, father and sister".  Apparently he had given the detectives three stories, before the trial it was reported in the newspaper that Fabian told detective that his friend asked him to shoot him, so he did.

Screenshot of Soltero after trial

The three stories were as follows.  In one version of what happened Fabian told detective that the "Mexican Mafia" called him to tell him to leave his shoes, a shotgun and shotgun shells near a dumpster.  In one version of what happened Soltero said that Fabian had told him to "come by his house on a certain day at a certain time and pick up the shotgun and the evidence and go back out the back door".  In the last version Soltero said that Fabian showed his friend the bodies of his family and told him to kill him, which he did.

The assertion Soltero made that Fabian killed his family and then showed Soltero the bodies was contradicted by statements he himself made. Soltero had told police that Luz, the mother, had been shot twice, a detail that wasn't known by anyone until after an autopsy report was done, which means he had to have been in the home when she was shot otherwise he wouldn't have known that she had been shot twice.   Soltero testified that after he shot his friend in the chest he had asked him to shoot him again.  Not possible, according to the forensic pathologist who testified that Fabians death was instantaneous after the shoot to his chest.  Fabian also suffered from a head wound.  Jose Castorena was shot once in the jaw and Luz was hit twice, once in the shoulder and once in the left side of the head.  The youngest of the victims was shot once in the lest side of the head and lost a portion of a finger as she raised her hand in front of her in defense of what she saw coming.

Friends and family of the teen all said he was a good kid, a good student, a quite kid that just couldn't have done something like this.  The whole community was in shock.  These were two best friends, both in band, both making good grades and staying out of trouble. They could be seen every day on their way home from school with their instruments and books in tow or riding off together on their bikes somewhere.  In the days leading up to the murders both boys were said to have been acting normal with no indications of trouble.

Screenshot of Soltero after sentence of life during appeals proceedings

During the investigation prints from two glasses in Fabian Castorenos room were taken that turned out to match Solteros. I'm not sure why that was the kind of evidence that would be thought of as damning considering the two were best friends and it would make absolute sense for the prints to be there on any day of the week really.  If you think about it, his fingerprints could be innocuously found in tons of places in the Castoreno home.  There were bloody footprints found in the hallway.  Although nothing appeared to be missing, the rooms of Fabian and the master bedroom were ransacked with the dresser drawers in the master bedroom found on the floor. The blood that was found on Solteros shoes was particularly damning, especially since he gave several explanations as to what it was that the detectives were seeing on his shoes....something he spilled in lab class, his brother threw up on them and he even said that a gangster had borrowed the shoes from him and asked him to dispose of them....and I guess he decided he just really liked them so he kept them?

screenshot of Jesus Soltero Jr. 15

 

The shoes were tested and results were positive for blood and the bloody foot prints that were found in the hallway of the Castoreno family home matched the shoe prints of the tennis shoes so it was some pretty key evidence.

Jesus Soltero Jr. was found guilty at the age of 16 of the murders of the family of four.  Because of his age the death penalty was not an option he was sentenced to life in prison. A few years after he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison an article showed up in the El Paso Times that said there was a possibility that Soltero could get a new trial.  I didn't find anything else after that in regards to Jesus Soltero Jr., maybe he spent the rest of this life in prison, however that's highly unlikely.

Either way the true motive for what happened that day between two best friends has never been discovered so we may never know what caused a 15 year old honor student to murder his best friend and his family but even if we did it wouldn't change what happened.