When we read history textbooks about witch hunts, we feel a certain detachment. The Salem Witch Trials were over 300 years ago, long enough for us to separate ourselves from the series in a meaningful way, right? Certainly we’re an enlightened enough society that we know that our neighbors, friends, or family aren’t spell-casting witches … right?
While we probably won’t see any witch trials any time soon, there are people who do believe witches and sorceresses causing trouble in our midst. Queens resident Carlos Alberto Amarillo, 48, certainly believed in witches. But he didn’t fear his neighbor or his friends, or even his family. He feared his girlfriend, Estrella Castaneda, 56, and her daughter, Lina, 25.
January 29, 2014, Amarillo made a call to 911: “Two females are dead, they were assassinated, hurry, they’re dead. I killed them because they’re witches. I want the police to kill me. I killed them with a hammer.”
When police arrived at the 87th St. home by 24th Ave, Amarillo was exiting his home carrying a Bible, saying, “I killed them, I killed them.”
Police entered the home to find Castaneda’s body face up on a bed, her face covered with a pillow. There were severe injuries to her head. Police moved to a rear bedroom where they found Lina with similar injuries as her mother. The claw hammer in question was next to her body.
Police also found Lina’s 7-year-old daughter, unharmed, in her mother’s bedroom.
When asked why he killed the two women, Amarillo told officers that he believed that they were witches and had been “performing voodoo and casting spells on him.”
Neighbors reported that they didn’t hear any screaming, but they did hear “banging.”
“As awful as it sounds, I think that was the hammering,” said neighbor Camilo Alvarez, 23. “Nobody heard screaming – that’s the weird part – so nobody called the police.”
Amarillo was arraigned that night on two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, and one count of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
After a nearly two-week trial this month, a jury found Amarillo guilty of two counts of first-degree murder.
There is no evidence to suggest that these women were performing any kind of “black magic,” “voodoo,” or anything of the like. Even if they were, Amarillo’s decision to bludgeon his girlfriend and her daughter is nothing short of sick. Whether or not Amarillo is suffering from a mental disorder has not been made clear.
Salem may have been 300 years ago, but people’s irrational fear of witches still seems to linger in the minds of citizens.