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Girlfriend describes frantic search for San Antonio man who was shot, stuffed in barrel

March 7, 2019

The girlfriend of a man who was killed and his body stuffed in a barrel testified Wednesday that she called hospitals all over San Antonio looking for the man, and determined he was dead while talking to a medical examiner.

Baby Vasquez, 21, testified at the opening of the murder trial of Jesse Ray Castilla, 38. He is accused of killing Joseph Camarena, 26, on Nov. 17, 2017, after Camarena went to see Castilla about money.

Vasquez, who has a daughter with Camarena, said she saw Castilla with a gun the night of the killing when she went to Castilla’s home looking for her boyfriend.

OnExpressNews.com: Trial begins in killing of San Antonio man found stuffed in barrell in 2017

“I was scared,” she told the jury.

Vasquez said Castilla told her he had taken Camarena to a hospital because he could have been having a seizure. Castilla told her he was “foaming at the mouth, and his eyes were rolling back,” she testified, so she called hospitals around the city to find him.

She also went to a downtown hospital to find him, but could not.

“I didn’t know what else to do,” Vasquez said.

She decided to call the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office to see if they had anyone resembling him there.

“They kept asking me about tattoos,” she said. “So I already knew he was dead.”

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Camarena died from a gunshot wound.

San Antonio police initially received a call about a body around 9 p.m. Nov. 17, 2017. When they arrived near Morsund Boulevard and Loop 410, they found a barrel that contained Camarena’s remains.

Authorities believe Castilla shot Camarena in the 300 block of Lovett Avenue on the Southwest Side. According to reports, the night Camarena died, he went to Castilla’s to collect money owed to him by the defendant.

An arrest affidavit indicated the night Camarena died, Castilla offered a bag of methamphetamine to a couple in exchange for dropping off the barrel at a river.

When the pair went to remove the barrel, it fell from a pickup and the top came off, exposing two feet, according to the document.

OnExpressNews.com: Court documents reveal details in case of body that was found in barrel in S.A. 

Prosecutors Kristina Escalona and Stephanie Paulissen introduced into evidence photographs of the barrel that showed the man’s feet, legs, and a closeup of Camarena’s face, which prompted gasps and cries from family members in the gallery.

In the afternoon, the barrel that contained Camarena’s body was brought into the courtroom and placed in front of the bench of Judge Jennifer Peña, who was presiding over her first murder trial as the judge of the 290th state District Court.

The barrel, which contained blood and bugs, was sealed and wrapped because of its odor, and courtroom officials felt it could be a biohazard. Two other barrels were brought into court to use for demonstrations to the jury.

Defense attorneys Suzanne Kramer and Sharon Thorn are representing Castilla.

If convicted, Castilla faces up to life in prison.

Elizabeth Zavala covers county and state courts in San Antonio. Read her on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | ezavala@express-news.net | Twitter: @elizabeth2863