Wednesday, May 12, 2010

East Texan honors mother by fighting the death penalty

The following blog post was written by Chris Castillo, who was just named to a new position with a national nonprofit group of murder victims' families that opposes the death penalty. For more information about Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, contact him at, or visit

My mother, Pilar Castillo, was murdered on Nov. 20, 1991 in Houston. Now, I am working as the Texas / National Organizer for Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, a national organization of family members of victims of both homicide and executions who oppose the death penalty in all cases. MVFR includes people of many different perspectives. Because violent crime cuts across a broad spectrum of society, its members are geographically, racially and economically diverse.

I was working as a daily newspaper reporter when I got the news that
my mother had died. I didn't know for hours that she had been murdered. The men who police believe killed her fled the U.S., and the crime remains unsolved.

It took me many years to find peace with my mother's death. The thing that had the greatest impact was volunteering within the walls of state prisons with a faith-based program aimed at showing inmates the impact crime has on individuals. It was then that I began to view inmates as people, not just criminals. Many of them are not much different from you and me. That really surprised me.

I became more involved with programs like Kairos in prison. The more I volunteered, the more I understood I could use this horrible act of violence to help others. I decided to help others instead of letting the pain and loss of my mother's death consume me.

I worked in public relations more than a decade until I was offered a job with MVFR. Since I don't believe in the death penalty, I really wanted this job. For me, it was the perfect fit.

I don't believe in the death penalty because I don't think anyone has the right to take a life. I also feel that the estimated $2.3 million spent on each death penalty case could instead be used to help us put more murderers behind bars and solve cases like my mother's. Money used for expensive death penalty trials also can be put aside to help crime victims and their families. After my mother died, my family was able to pay off funeral expenses with assistance from the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund.

It is my goal to make a difference within my world. I am honored to work with abolishing the death penalty in Texas and various other states. For me, this is more than a job. It is a calling.
(Source: Dallas News Death Penalty Blog)

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