news, spain

What’s Going On In Castro-Urdiales?

My beloved Castro-Urdiales has made national headlines this past week. While scrolling through some posts on Reddit this weekend, not at all related to the news, I came across one post with the name Castro-Urdiales in it. I thought it might actually be one of those spammy ad-posts that seem to know how to target you. Still, very click-worthy. 

One of my first pictures in Castro with my new bike

For context, I lived in Castro-Urdiales, Cantabria in 2014-15 and again in 2018-19. It was a decent town to live in, though I have mixed feelings about it being “just another (cheaper) neighborhood of Bilbao.” Despite not having a lot of things to do, the town has amazing sea views and rocky cliffs to walk along. It’s a pretty quiet place most of the time, except in the summer when the population triples or quadruples and there’s not much space on either of the two beaches.

Lovely Castro amigos

I worked at a high school, had tons of private students, helped run a language exchange the first year, and had a pretty nice group of welcoming friends. So I knew a pretty wide range of people in this town of about 30,000. Lots of parents of kids and teens who hired me to give private English lessons to their kids, and lots and lots of teenagers from the high school. So reading this shocking news report gave me chills. 

Cold-Blooded Murder, or Self-Defense?

Last Wednesday, two teenaged boys, 13 and 15, murdered their adoptive mom at their house. The kids, originally from Russia, were adopted 10 years ago. As the media has reported it, after an argument, the older boy used a sharp object to stab his mother in the neck. When the kids realized there was a lot of blood, they decided to cover her head with a plastic bag. After trying to clean up the blood and remove all evidence of the crime, they carried the body downstairs to the car in the garage. When they weren’t able to get the body into the trunk, they opted to put it in the back seat. The boys called their (adoptive) grandmother, who lives nearby, and allegedly told her that they were being kidnapped. This would have made the mom-in-the-backseat situation a bit more believable as an alibi.

The plan appeared to be to escape with the body and try to hide it. But since they didn’t know how to drive, they crashed the car into the garage wall. Then they quickly fled the house and ran away to a nearby park to hide. The grandmother called the police, and within a short time, they discovered the car with the body of the mom with her hands tied, mouth gagged, bag over her head, and puncture wounds to the neck. A few hours later, they tracked down the kids, the oldest one confessed the crime, and they were taken into juvenile detention. 

The big question is: why did they kill her? There’s a pretty big controversy over whether the kids were well-behaved or not, whether the parents were too strict or even possibly abusive. There are still a lot of questions to answer to get to the bottom of this.

What we know so far:

  • The family was very religious and attended mass every week.
  • The neighbors reported hearing frequent arguing between the mother and the boys. The day of the murder, the oldest boy reported that he and his mother got into an argument about grades, and his mother started insulting and hitting him.
  • The boys reported to the police that their parents punished them, sometimes physically, for bad grades.
  • Teachers, and even the mayor of Castro, affirm that the kids were very good students, but there have also been reports that the oldest demonstrated “conflictive behavior.” 
  • The oldest boy seems to have actually faked his own kidnapping in another incident a couple of years before.
  • The boys’ classmates explained to reporters that they didn’t have much of a social life, their parents didn’t let them go out much at all, they were introverted, and occasionally had bruises.
  • The boys reported bad treatment at home to their school, and when their parents found out, they got angry. 

So, as you can see, there’s a lot to investigate to figure out exactly what happened and what led to this situation. Were the kids being abused and acting in self-defense? Were they difficult kids to manage, to the point of needing extra discipline (as some family members have stated)? What went wrong in the system to let this situation fall through the cracks? Why didn’t the school report this to Social Services, and how did the report get back to the parents?

To further complicate the situation, while the oldest remains in a juvenile center, the boys’ adoptive dad is the one may be the person with the power to decide whether the youngest boy will come back and live with him. How could these two individuals ever be expected to live together again after such a horrible tragedy in which the father will always blame his adoptive sons for the loss of his wife? 

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

The Case Of The Head

This is not the first murder that has rocked the small seaside town in recent years. An even more chilling crime that’s now known as “The Case of the Head,” (an episode from Law and Order?), happened back in 2019. This is actually a very juicy story. A middle-aged woman named Carmen took a box over to her neighbor’s house, asking the neighbor if she wouldn’t mind keeping the box for her for a while.

What was in the box, you ask? According to Carmen, the box was full of sex toys and she didn’t want her partner Jesús Mari to see them, apparently they were going to be a surprise gift or something. A few months later, Jesús Mari was reported missing by a cousin who was having a hard time getting a hold of him. Around the same time, Carmen’s neighbor was cleaning out her closets and started to wonder what was going on with the box and why Carmen hadn’t come back for it yet. Also, it was starting to smell a little weird. So out of curiosity, she opened the box and discovered, wrapped in several plastic bags… a human cranium. A skull! Jesús Mari’s head! 

Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie on Unsplash

So obviously the neighbor, freaking out, called the police. Carmen was taken into custody for questioning and forensic investigators examined the apartment and the head. After a thorough investigation, it was discovered that the head was decapitated from the body with a sharp object. 

The forensics team also reported that the cranium had not only been injured with a sharp object, but also subjected to a high level of heat, leading to rumors that Carmen actually cooked the head to try to reduce the evidence. More rumors flew around town that Carmen actually made croquetas with it, which, who knows? This is already a bizarre case, why not make it even weirder? 

Interestingly, the police found via Carmen’s financial records that, around the same time her boyfriend disappeared, Carmen bought a chainsaw. A CHAINSAW. And a huge amount of cleaning products. And five bottles of whiskey. And her cleaning lady, upon questioning, revealed that Carmen asked her to take out some very heavy trash bags around that time. Her Google search history included things like “how to get a chainsaw unstuck,” “if my husband disappears do I still get his pension,” and “how long does a body take to decompose.” 

(Okay everyone, Basic Murder Introduction Class: delete your search history. Also, it’s very easy to find your shopping records.)

The latest news from the most recent trial: Carmen is still pleading innocent (oh honey, no, not with that search history or that shopping history!) and has been sentenced to 25 years in prison, basically the rest of her life.

It’s true that the world is a crazy place with desperate people, but let’s hope Castro-Urdiales doesn’t see any more homicides in the future. 

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