BROOKSVILLE — Maria Macdelena Castillo told Brooksville Police she didn’t know she was pregnant, but investigators say the 27-year-old woman understood right from wrong when she killed her newborn daughter in April.
Castillo, of 385 Union Street, was charged with negligent manslaughter this week in the April 28 death of a baby girl who she gave birth to in the shower that day. Castillo lived with her mother and adult siblings in the Tanglewood Apartments off East Jefferson Street.
A medical examiner listed the baby’s cause of death as asphyxiation, hemorrhage and inattention at birth.
After giving birth, Castillo placed the baby in a trash bag that she hid in her bedroom under a pile of dirty clothes, Brooksville Police Chief George Turner said. Castillo was arrested Wednesday after the medical examiner confirmed that the child was alive at birth.
“We waited on the official cause of death to support the charges,” Turner said. “We had a lot of conversations back and forth with the State Attorney’s Office. She understood right from wrong.”
He said that Castillo’s family and neighbors questioned her about pregnancy after they noticed her gaining weight.
Turner said the family confronted Castillo again April 28 after her brother went to take a shower after her.
“He saw the scene” in the shower, Turner said. “The mother and brother started banging on her (bedroom) door and asking where the baby was. (Castillo) pointed to a pile of clothes, and the mother called 911.”
By that time, Turner said, the baby had been in the bag about an hour. The family tried to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but could not revive the baby, Turner said.
“Only she really knows” if she knew she was pregnant, Turner said. “She knew she hadn’t had her period for a long time. She was gaining weight. The neighbors and mother asked her about it. Her boyfriend was around.
“We asked her specific questions about right and wrong, and we’re very comfortable with the charge. She acknowledged afterward that she didn’t do the right things — it wasn’t the right course of action.”
At Tanglewood Apartments on Thursday, Latoya Patrick questioned Castillo’s claims of ignorance regarding her pregnancy.
A hairdresser with two children, Patrick said “there’s no possible way (a mother) could not know” she is pregnant.
“I mean, I’ve heard of that,” Patrick said. “I’ve seen that kind of thing on Lifetime. Your body just shifts altogether. I can’t imagine that.”
Still, she described Castillo as a large woman who was friendly, but seemed to have mental challenges. Patrick said she often saw Castillo riding a bicycle around the neighborhood.
Other neighbors described Castillo’s family as quiet.
No one answered the door at Castillo’s home.
Turner said that Castillo had “all kinds of options.”
“There’s a law in place specifically for mothers who don’t want a child,” he said, referring to the Florida Safe Haven Law.
Under the Florida law, a parent — or “practically any responsible adult” — can leave a baby up to seven days old with an employee at any hospital, emergency medical services station or with a firefighter at any fire station in the state, according to information on a website offering specifics of the law.
“In Florida, no one ever has to abandon a child again,” the web site says.
Castillo was being held in the Hernando County Jail Thursday with bail at $30,000, records show.