Sunday, May 4, 2008

Austin teen's murderer sentenced to life in prison


The jury deliberated only one hour before convicting 29-year-old Matthew Castro of murdering Austin resident Lance David Ulland, who was shot dead in March 2007 at a Florida motel in a case of mistaken identity over a bogus drug deal.

Matthew Antone Castro was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for his crime, a single count of first-degree premeditated murder.

“This defendant intended to shoot and kill somebody,” said Assistant State Attorney Leah Case, who works in Florida’s Seventh District.

“His only accident was that he killed the wrong guy,” she said.

Castro had been recently discharged from the Navy when he shot 18-year-old Ulland point-blank in the eye in what authorities called a random incident over a bad drug deal.

According to prior Herald reports, Ulland and his mother were staying in Florida’s Daytona Beach area to visit his grandfather in the region. At the night of the murder, Ulland had left for the party while his mother remained with relatives.

Reports said Ulland and friends were at the beach when they met several Navy men, including Castro, before returning to their hotel room at the Atlantic Economy Inn.

More than two dozen witnesses said they saw Castro knocking on hotel doors at the motel late that night in pursuit of someone when he reached room 127, where Ulland and his friends sat inside.

They said Ulland answered Castro’s knock, and said he recognized him. Castro then shot once him in the face.

The Jacksonville, Fla., resident was arrested not far from the motel 10 to 15 minutes later. He initially denied involvement— then claimed it was an accident — and finally, admitted he shot Ulland and showed police where the weapon was hidden.

The coroner declared Ulland dead at 3:30 a.m.

According to Case, Castro testified during the week-long trial that he was in search of a drug dealer, then the people that introduced him to the dealer, when he came upon Ulland.

“He thought Lance was one of the guys who sold him the drugs,” she said, adding that Castro also said the gun accidently discharged. “We know Lance was not involved.”

Ulland’s family members described the teen as a good person who “loved everybody.” He is survived by a fraternal twin, Erik; sister, Jessica Taft; mother and father.

Family members did not immediately return phone calls.

No comments: