Louis Castro Perez Case: Check the DNA AGAIN!
The beginning of the end all started for Louis Castro Perez with a 3 am call on Thursday, September 10, 1998. This phone call was made to the local police department by Melvin Jones. Jones did not hear from Cinda Barz, his current girlfriend at the time all day long. Jones told police that the last time he talked to his girlfriend was on Wednesday around 5 pm. When Jones said that the last time they talked, she did not seem like her normal self.
Jones recounted that the pair always were in communication with one another. When Jones could not reach her at her house all night, that was very alarming. Jones was stranded at his home in the Northeast section of Austin and could not drive over to her house to check on her himself, so he asked the local police to do a welfare check on her and her home in Batton Hills.
It only took the police officers about 40 minutes for them to arrive at Cinda Barz residence at 2810 Rock Terrace Drive. When the officers knocked on the door, they did not get any response. The police saw no movement or lights on in the home other than the blue flicker that was coming from the television left on in the living room.
However, the front door to the Batton Hills home was locked, as was the sliding glass door in the back. But, in the driveway of the home, there were two cars: one was Cinda Barz’s and the other car belonged to her roommate, Michelle Fulwiler’s.
Louis Castro Perez a Suspect?
The last person to see the Barz and Fulwiler alive was Louis Castro Perez. At the time, Perez was a 36-year-old man, who was in a relationship with Fulwiler. Law enforcement knew that Perez spent the night at 2810 Rock Terrace Drive the night prior.
Perez was an occasional bouncer and a carpenter. Perez was a divorced father of three sons with his ex-wife. Perez also had a daughter from a previous girlfriend as well.
Perez loved the party scene during this time in his life. You could also find Perez at the Carnaval or in one of the Downtown bars. Perez spent most of his time off smoking and drinking at the very popular Campbell’s Hole in Barton Creek Greenbelt.
Perez even had a love for social drugs as well. Perez’s kryptonite was mainly cocaine. Often Perez would be the middleman during these casual drug deals with among his friends.
Perez even admitted that he had a very strong father-daughter relationship, but he did not have such a strong bond with his three sons. Perez even went to jail two times for not paying his child support.
Perez met Fulwiler through his brother. However, it was not until after one of Perez’s stints in jail that the pair began to date. During this time the pair was always on and off again for a few months. During them on and off again moments, Fulwiler would get into other relationships and see where it took her.
However, the pair officially got back together on September 8, 1998, and by September 10, 1998, Fulwiler and her roommate, Cinda was dead.
Perez was arrested at a South Austin 7-Eleven on Friday, September 11, 1998.
Louis Castro Perez Case Trial
Perez went to trial the next year, in 1999.
The prosecution team was not able to tie Perez to any of the DNA found on the murder weapons. The prosecution could not even locate any eyewitnesses from the scene as well. So, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office had to heavily rely on ALL circumstantial evidence. The circumstantial evidence was Perez’s fingerprints found at the crime scene, Perez’s DNA that was in the house, solely his palm print, which was next to Cinda Barz body.
However, this circumstantial evidence did the trick. On October 20, 1999, Perez was sentenced to death.
During this time Perez maintains he was innocent. Perez even went as far to say that yes, he was the last person to leave the house prior to the murders happening, but he also was the first person to walk back in after the murders occurred as well. But Perez always stated that he was not the killer.
Perez had one alibi witness, Alex Guiterrez, one California drug dealer. Perez stated that he spent the day with Guiterrez, but Guiterrez could never be found. Perez’s defense team tried to locate Guiterrez, so they can verify the alibi, but they were unsuccessful.
Minerva Hall, one of Perez’s friends was the first person to talk to Perez after the murders happened. Perez showed up at her apartment approximately at 9:15 pm on Wednesday. Hall stated that Perez was barefoot, and his hair was a royal mess. Hall even stated that Perez had scratches on his neck. Perez explained that was from a fight that he got into with his father, and Hall did not question him further about it.
Revisiting the DNA Years Later
Suspicions grew as the years went on that Perez may truly be innocent. In October of 2001, Calhoun decided it was time to solicit a post-conviction DNA testing to be done. The testing would be done by Dr. Robert Benjamin, who is a professor of biological sciences in the University of North Texas. Benjamin documented that Perez’s trial counsel and its DNA expert did not have the full complete list of all electropherograms for the DNA analyses that were done on the evidence.
Benjamin also stated that a lot of the samples that were analyzed various amounts of times and only a select few examples of these results were used during the trial. This is cause for great concern as the nature of the samples and along with the results were key pieces of evidence in the Perez case.
The results that were used in the case were very weak and even incomplete profiles. These results were what ultimately convicted Perez in the first place.
Benjamin even went on to say that the conclusions concerning these DNA matches were questionable at best.
A few years later in 2006, during one of the state habeas proceedings, this is when the Travis County District Attorney’s Office agreed that it was time to have the DPS compare some of the unidentified DNA that were found at the crime scene and see if they could find any hits in CODIS. CODIS is a DNA database that keeps all convicted felon’s DNA on file. This database opened in 1996.
Texas Death Row & Execution
Currently, Louis Castro Perez has been issued a stay on his execution. This was thanks to Sian Schilhab, a general counsel for Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals. Schilhab indicated that there was some evidence discovered and disclosed to the defense team.
As, Perez is not optimistic. Perez always said that this is still Texas. Texas does not care about you if you have nothing. That they will do everything in their power to execute me. And Perez completely and utterly understands that, but in the back of his mind, he does have a little bit of hope that he will one day walk out of the jail a free man.