Arrest of Lubbock Man Triggers CODIS Alert for Unsolved 2003 Homicide

October 20, 2020

Andy Castillo

On July 15, 2003, the body of a young woman, naked from the waist down, was found dumped on a rural road in Southeast Lubbock County, TX. It appeared that her body had been transported in a pickup or similar vehicle with large wheels. The cause of death was determined to be strangulation and although the suspects DNA was left behind on the victim’s necklace, police were unable to identify her killer. The victim was identified as 21-year-old Cynthia Joann Palacio, a young mother of one who left her beloved 2-year-old daughter and family behind.

For seventeen years her loved ones were left wondering who would do such a thing. For seventeen years they lived with the knowledge that Cynthia’s killer was out there somewhere, walking the streets as a free man, avoiding justice and punishment. Then, in January 2020, a 57-year-old Lubbock resident, Andy Castillo, was arrested for a string of disturbing crimes, including stalking and child sexual assault. Castillo had been stalking female realtors with children online for around a year, threatening to sexually assault their children. Records show he harassed a female realtor in Waco as well as several others in the area. He would also leave threatening voicemails and is thought to have stalked around 100 women, across 10 states, in 20 cities including San Francisco, New Orleans, San Antonio, El Paso and Lubbock. Police reported that he was actively sending harassing messages just minutes before his arrest.

Andy Castillo was apprehended, arrested on charges of criminal solicitation to commit child sexual assault and booked into McLennan County Jail where officers took samples of his DNA. The sample triggered an alert in CODIS, and they soon discovered that his profile was linked to the 2003 murder of Cynthia Joann Palacio. He was charged with murder in the death of miss Palacio and is currently sitting in a Waco jail on a $1.5 million dollar bond.

Castillo had never been a suspect in the case, but they now believe that he could have even more victims. Less than a year after Palacio’s murder, another young woman, also 21-years-old and Hispanic, was found dead and dumped on a desolate stretch of road in Northern Lubbock County. She too had been strangled to death and suffered blunt force injuries to the head. Her body had also been transported by a pickup with large wheels.

The woman was later identified as Linda Trevino Carbajal Cynthia Joann Palacio’s old roommate.  Carbajal had been in the news once before her murder, where she was the subject of an interview about prostitution for KCBD, telling them: “I really want to better myself not only for me, but for my daughter and my grandmother cause life is too short, you know”.  In the same interview she said: “I've been through a lot. I've had my friends killed in front of me. I've seen a lot. It's very dangerous, I ask myself sometimes. I'm surprised I'm alive to this day.” Less than a year later she was found dead.

Because of the nature of her work it was difficult to track down anyone who had seen her or talked to her before her death. The young woman did not have a routine and with nothing else to go on, her case came to a halt.  

Believing it to be too much of a coincidence, investigators tested the DNA found at both crime scenes and there was a link. They announced that they plan to perform the same DNA test on Linda Carbajal that they did on Cynthia Palacio and the case is currently still under investigation.

“A lot of women have been victimised by this creep” said Sheriff Parnell Mcnamara.

Investigators believe there is a link between the women as they were both sex workers and will likely look at unsolved cases in and around the area with a similar M.O and victim type.

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