Wife in seclusion; ex told cops he killed their children

Athena Castillo (from left), 2; Anthony Castillo, 6; and Austin Castillo, 4, were drowned in a Baltimore hotel bathtub Saturday night. Police say their father, Mark Anthony Castillo of Rockville, Md., admitted to the killings and was charged Monday with m

He was a gymnast and former riverboat card dealer from California. She was a doctor from the District of Columbia.

He became a stay-at-home dad. She supported the family on her doctor's salary.

Their Charleston marriage was happy enough to lead to the births of three children in Maryland. But he became increasingly erratic and frightening.

Dr. Amy Castillo sought a protective order in Montgomery County District Court on Dec. 25, 2006, and asked that her husband, Mark Anthony Castillo, receive psychiatric counseling because he threatened to kill the children. Circuit Judge Joseph Dugan granted a temporary protective order but rejected a permanent order on Jan. 10, 2007. In explaining his decision, Dugan wrote there was "no clear or convincing evidence that the alleged acts of abuse occurred."

The parents divorced in February. Their battle over child visitation rights came to a horrific conclusion Saturday when police say Mark Castillo drowned the children in a Baltimore hotel bathtub. On Wednesday, Amy Castillo was in seclusion at her Silver Spring, Md., home while her ex-husband was jailed without bond on charges that he murdered their children. On Saturday, Amy Castillo will bury the kids, Anthony, 6; Austin, 4; and Athena, 2.

Inquiries about Dugan's decision on Wednesday were referred to Maryland Judiciary Deputy Director Darrell Pressley. "Here in Maryland, judges are precluded from commenting on a pending case," Pressley said. He said the case was pending because of the criminal charges against Mark Castillo.

Cheryl Wharton answered the phone at Amy Castillo's house Wednesday morning. "She is surrounded by friends and family and is coping as well as expected," Wharton said. "Amy asks for your continued prayers during this unspeakably difficult time."

Amy Castillo was a member of East Cooper Baptist Church, where she played in the orchestra, led Bible study and worked with the singles ministry, said Senior Pastor Buster Brown. Brown said Mark Castillo was involved in gymnastics and personal athletic training. "Your first impression of him was that he was engaging and handsome. He made a very good impression. He was very gracious," Brown said.

Dr. Amy Ashley Ward, 32, and Mark Anthony Castillo, 31, married on Feb. 7, 1998, in Charleston County, but not at the church. "I'm really not sure how they met. He started coming to our church before they moved," Brown said.

Mark Castillo told psychologist C. David Missar of Washington that he met his future wife in Charleston while traveling the country performing in gymnastics shows. He grew up in California, served in the Air Force and worked as a mail carrier, flower shop owner and riverboat card dealer, according to court records.

Amy Castillo was a popular pediatrics resident at the Medical University of South Carolina. She completed her residency program in 1994 and went to work at Franklin C. Fetter Family Health Center on Meeting Street treating the poor and disadvantaged.

They lived at Runaway Bay Apartments in Mount Pleasant, where Mark Castillo was ticketed for creating a rush-hour disturbance by hawking a Furby doll in a cage in the median of Johnnie Dodds Boulevard on Dec. 23, 1998. He held a large white sign that said "Show Me The Money" on one side and "Furby" on the other side, according to a police report.

In 2001, the Castillos bought a brick split-level house in Silver Spring, Md. Mark Castillo recently worked part time at a state-run sports center in Laurel, Md., where he taught gymnastics.

Mark Castillo, 41, of Rockville, Md., has confessed to drowning the children on Saturday night when they were to go back with their mother. He was charged with first-degree murder and child abuse after his release from a hospital where he was treated for self-inflicted cuts to his neck, police said.

In 2005, the latest available figures, 1,460 children died of abuse, and 90 percent of them were less than 7 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The Washington Post contributed to this story. Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711 or pfindlay@postandcourier.com.