District Attorney's Office


Conasauga Judicial Circuit of Georgia

   Serving Murray & Whitfield Counties


October 24, 2016 (Dalton) – Catarina Castro-Moran (22), formerly of 526 Whitener Drive, Dalton, was found guilty this morning of 2nd Degree Murder and 2nd Degree Cruelty to Children following a week-long trial that began last Monday. The jury began deliberating on Friday but did not reach a verdict until mid-morning today after having been sent home for the weekend. The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Scott Helton and defended by Mike McCarthy and Sheri Smith of the Public Defender’s Office. Chief Superior Court Judge William T. Boyett presided over the trial and set sentencing for December 2, 2016 at 1:30 PM.

Evidence presented at trial showed that Castro’s 17-month-old child, Yessica Moran, began showing signs of illness including a fever on Christmas Day, 2015. Castro took Yessica to the Health Department on December 28th, and on their advice, then took her to the emergency room, but after being told that the child needed to be admitted, became concerned about the cost. Castro was advised by hospital personnel in Spanish that there would no up-front charge and that arrangements could be made after the fact concerning her inability to pay the bill. Nevertheless, Castro stated that she would seek a second opinion and left the emergency room without Yessica receiving any treatment and never took Yessica to any other doctor or medical facility for the next three days until Yessica died from her illness on December 31st.

During that time period, Castro communicated with her mother and other people including by Facebook messages that were admitted at trial and was well aware of how gravely ill her daughter was and that the child could very well die. She communicated to one individual that she had come to the United States to make money, not to waste money. It also appears that she may have resisted taking the child back to the hospital out of fear of deportation as she was not in the United States legally and in fact had already missed one court date in immigration court in Atlanta and had an outstanding Federal warrant for failure to appear. Numerous friends and family urged Castro to take the child to the doctor.

When Yessica finally died on the 31st, Castro went to a neighbor and calmly told him that she thought her baby had died. The child had a post-mortem fever of 104.3 degrees, dried blister lips (inside and out) and numerous lesions from where the infection had come through the skin. An autopsy revealed that Yessica died from a bacterial infection and had a condition resulting in an extremely low white blood cell count, although it could not be determined if that was a pre-existing condition, possibly that she was born with, or if that condition had developed as a result of the infection itself.

Detective Jacob Burger of the Dalton Police Department lead the investigation into Yessica’s death. At sentencing on December 2nd, Castro faces from ten to thirty years in prison and will likely be deported to Guatemala after her release from confinement.

Today’s verdict follows last week’s conviction of Sharon Carrell in Chatsworth for 2nd degree cruelty to children involving the injury and death of her grandson, Patrick Darnell, in a bathtub-scalding which occurred December 16, 2015. A third child death occurred during the same time period on January 12, 2016. That child’s father, Teodoro Miguel Rosas-Santos, is in custody in the Murray County Jail pending indictment by the Grand Jury and will likely be scheduled for trial in February.

Bert Poston
District Attorney
Conasauga Judicial Circuit

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Bert Poston,
District Attorney

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