Midessa Missing and Murdered:An Easter Without Hope
As I was working on writing the last part of this story I decided to try and check my timeline information again just to be safe. Doing so doesn’t always guarantee everything is exactly, specifically or chronologically accurate, simply due to the common occurrence of mistakes made in newspapers, however it does help. I was also checking to see if there were any other photos on file related to the incident that I might want to include. I set the date range 8 years before the death of Gloria Castillo because that’s how old she was and it’s just common practice for me to do that when I’m researching. Occasionally I’ll find the person or persons name pop up in a newspaper article for something completely unrelated, more often than not it’s related to unclaimed monies or graduation announcements. Today what I found brought me to tears immediately.
If you haven’t read the first 2 parts of this story I suggest you go back and do so before you read the rest of this so you’ll have some context. For everyone else a brief summary. An 8-year-old girl is reported missing and later found dead in a field under a blanket with a rope wrapped and double knotted around her neck. Her mother is questioned for hours on end the day after the funeral. A man is arrested in connection with the death. An autopsy report suggests that the death was an accident. The mother and father along with the man are all three charged in connection with the death of a little girl named Gloria Castillo. She was in first grade. She died just days after her 8th birthday.
So now I’m on to the part that happens right after it’s announced that the three, Gloria’s mother, father and this man are being charged in connection with Gloria’s death. I put in my date range and sort from oldest to newest. I normally have to scroll through dozens of unrelated names until I get to what I’m looking for. This time I happened to see her name and decided to check even though I figured it wouldn’t be the right Gloria Castillo, but it was. The newspaper clipping I found with Gloria’s name in it was from Valentine’s Day in 1988. She’s 5 years old and when I click to view the clipping a black and white picture fills the entire 14 by 22 inches of my computer screen. It’s a little girl, inside a massive firemen’s jacket, she’s looking up and smiling with a grin that’s missing a tooth in the front, with great big dark eyes and short brown hair. She’s a sweet little child, doing what sweet little children do. It hurt my heart to it. There’s a chance it might not be my Gloria Castillo but either way it doesn’t matter. It reminded me that this girl was an innocent child. A real child that really existed. She toured a fire station and learned about fire safety. She ate ice cream and played with toys. She wasn’t just a name in the paper from 20 years ago.
The picture was from a tour that the Fannin Early Education students took to learn more about what firemen do. I would imagine that some of those same firemen were called to the scene of Gloria’s death in 1990. In fact I bet they were part of the group of people who searched for her when she was first reported as missing.
When Gloria was first reported as missing her mother said that neighbors reported seeing a Hispanic man with a mustache driving a faded orange Chevrolet pickup in the neighborhood the day that Gloria disappeared. There were reports of a man offering candy to a girl who looked like Gloria in the neighborhood that same day. All of which were proven to be unsubstantiated.
On May 7th 1990 an Ector County grand jury returns misdemeanor indictments on Gloria’s mother, father and Donald Wayne Bleckler, a man who is said to be a family friend. The parents are indicted with charges of illegally moving their daughter’s body, making a false report to the Sheriff’s Department and perjury related to statements made in the case. Donald Wayne Bleckler, a 31-year-old Odessa man is charged with two felony counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and the misdemeanor charge of moving a body. For those of you who aren’t familiar with charges like these the three offenses are all Class A misdemeanors that only carry a fine up to $2,000 and/or up to one year in jail. Donald Wayne Bleckler, who happens to have the most common middle name among serial killers, murderers and suspected murders, remains in jail and the Texas Department of Human Services take custody of Mrs. Castillo’s minor children.
It’s the custody hearing for Gloria’s four siblings that will finally offer an explanation for her death. Kinda…not really.
Deputy Troy W. Davis, a child abuse investigator for the Sheriff’s Department testifies that Gloria was strangled to death by a rope attached to a pole while she was playing with some other children near her family’s mobile home that day. He says that the children told the girl’s parents what happened and that her body was then cut down, placed on the porch of the home where she lived and then set in the back of a pickup belonging to 31-year-old Donald Wayne Bleckler, by whom however, is not specified. That and other information was contained within a 23-page report made by Deputy Davis in which he makes the conclusion that Gloria’s death appeared be accidental. A report that was not entered into record at the hearing but was made available to the Castillo’s lawyers for reference. Eventually it is decided that the best thing for Gloria’s four young siblings is for them to be released to their grandmother, Sulema Dutchover, for the next six months. Then comes the various court dates and postponements and even a sinister missed court date by the father, Jose Castillo, that his lawyer says he wasn’t even told about. The issue of the 14 hour interrogation of Mrs. Castillo the day after her daughter was laid to rest was raised. The lawyers of both Mr. and Mrs. Castillo file a motion with the judge to suppress any statements made during that questioning. Mrs. Castillo’s lawyers says he was denied access to his client and Mrs. Castillo herself says that when she asked for a lawyer she was told no. During the questioning, Bob Garcia, Mrs. Castillo’s lawyer, asked that his client be released to him and was told by the sheriff that he didn’t physically have possession of Mrs. Castillo so how could he release her to anyone….knowing full well she was in a room at the courthouse being questioned by his deputies. At the same time their mother was being questioned, Gloria’s siblings were also being questioned. Those statements are also asked to be suppressed. I step outside the telling of the facts right here and ask myself what it was that these kids said considering Ninefa is quoted in the paper as saying that she “didn’t know why the children were telling the stories they were telling”. To add to the long list of things that makes this whole case so confusing and seemingly shrouded in mystery is finding out that the aggravated sexual assault of a child charges that Donald Wayne Bleckler was charged with were of Gloria’s brother, Jose jr.
Eventually the charges against all three are dropped. That’s right, the charges of sexual assault of a child and abuse of a corpse against Bleckler are dropped and when the court rules that the statements made on April 26th 1990 that were gained as a result of a 14 hour interrogation of Gloria’s mother and the statements of the children that day can’t be used in the trial all the charges against both Jose Castillo and Ninefa Castillo are also dropped. In July 1992, the same week the trial was set to begin the Ector County Attorney’s Office drops all the charges against Mr. and Mrs. Castillo in connection with the death of their 8-year-old daughter, Gloria Castillo.
Gloria’s mother is asked how she feels about the charges being dropped after the years of persecution she had to face and what she had to say was this, “all I think right now is that I wish one day I can find out the truth”. At some point she says that she wasn’t concerned with the trial or the court dates or motions or suppressions, she just wanted to know what happened to her daughter.
Ninefa (Dutchover) Castillo died on February 21st, 2011, she was only 57. She never got to know what happened to her dark eyed little girl during the Easter of 1990. Gloria played Nintendo all Saturday morning, then went outside to play in the sunshine with friends and was never seen alive again. An accident? In my opinion no.
A tree is planted in honor of Gloria near the first-grade wing of the school she attended at Cavazos Elementary in Odessa.