A 34-year-old Tahlequah woman is in the Cherokee County Detention Center after investigators say she swindled money from an elderly man who lives in a nursing home.
According to Tahlequah Police Det. Thomas Donnell, when police went to interview Malana Castillo about bogus checks written on the man's checking account, they found her drugged and "almost comatose." The home was disheveled, covered in cat feces, and Castillo's young daughter, found hiding in a closet, appeared malnourished.
"I thought [the child] was about 4 or 5 years old," Donnell said. "She was so small, but she is actually 7 years old."
The child was taken into Department of Human Services custody.
A probable cause affidavit filed Tuesday says an investigation began when 15 bogus checks were written on a closed account belonging to the elderly man and his sister, who also lives in a nursing home. The account was closed in February 2012 because the debit card associated with it had overspent, the affidavit says.
The elderly man and military veteran said in an interview that Castillo told him that the money would just come out of his savings account and cover any checks. The victim also declined to press charges and became uncooperative with police, the affidavit says.
A bank official said the victim's account was not set up to overdraft from his savings account, and even if it was, the man didn't even have enough money in his savings account to cover the bounced checks. The official also reportedly told investigators that, in the past, she witnessed Castillo waiting in a car while the victim went inside the bank, cashed his check, and once outside, [Castillo] took the cash from him.
Court records say Castillo claimed she was the care provider for the victim when he was not in the nursing home, a charge which nursing home staff refuted. Staff said the victim had never received care from Castillo and added the victim told them he was getting out of the nursing home soon and would be going to live with Castillo.
According to the affidavit, staff believed Castillo was telling the victim he could live with her as a means for him "to continue to finance her."
When Donnell interviewed Castillo in the doorway of her residence on July 28, she told him there were up to 16 additional outstanding checks, the affidavit says. Donnell asked Castillo to meet him at the police station on July 30 for additional questioning. After waiting 30 minutes for her to show that day, he went to her home again.
That's when Donnell said he knocked and witnessed a child try to wake Castillo, but she was unresponsive. "Due to the exigent circumstances and the possibility of being in danger and the child not being able to wake her," Donnell entered the home, the affidavit says.
Donnell said he woke Castillo, who was wearing a tank top smeared with vomit and blood. Castillo's speech was slurred and she was unsteady on her feet, documents say.
It "looked like someone had set a bomb off in the residence," Donnell wrote in his report.
The girl was found in her bedroom closet, and when DHS tried to take her into custody, Castillo threatened, in the child's presence, to kill herself claiming "she was a damn good mother and said that her child wants for nothing," the affidavit says.
According to the child's grandmother, the 7-year-old has never been enrolled in school. Donnell said Castillo has two other children, and they live with their grandmother.
On Tuesday, Donnell returned to the home with an arrest warrant for Castillo. The affidavit says he had to force entry and eventually found her hiding next to the dryer and covered with a blanket.
"She's totally dependent on drugs," Donnell said. "Her drugs seem to all be prescribed, but she's completely dependent on them. She can't even take care of herself."
Castillo was booked into jail for exploitation of the elderly, and authorities tacked on a complaint of bringing contraband into a penal institution. Investigators said she sneaked in a cell phone and was making calls from jail. It is possible more charges could be added in regards to the child's well being and individual bogus check charges.
Exploitation of the elderly is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 10 years in the state penitentiary.
Castillo is being held on $27,000 bond.
A search of Oklahoma court records shows Castillo was previously charged with neglect to compel a child to attend school, a misdemeanor (December 2011), and failure to use a child restraint in a vehicle (2007). Felony bogus check charges were filed against her in 1997, but later dismissed, and she has had various traffic complaints and protective orders filed against her.