tv Dateline MSNBC December 19, 2020 12:00am-2:00am PST
women at the networks of nbc news, good night. have a good weekend unless you have other plans. >> he would tell stories about how he had angels protecting him. >> amber was the angel of death. she would come around when someone was going to die. he would get this terrible grin that looked evil. >> we were all having meals together and there was a lot of parties. >> a swimming pool, a fleet of cool cars. it seemed like a kid's fantasy. >> you were the little girl that got a horses for your birthday.
>> i had three horses. >> it was called angels landing a special place for a chosen free, a community of free spirispirit s, and some came to suspect, secrets. >> she fell and hit her had head and drowned. >> it started with a death and then another, and another. >> he was crushed under a vehicle while working on it. >> all ruled accidents, but were they? >> it did the not smell right. >> for investigators, a journey in to the super natural. >> he would say that even we could not see her, she was there. >> who? or what had a grip on this place? >> amber was the angel of death. she would come around when somebody was going to die. >> a terrifying tale of dark power and diabolical prophecy s >> he predicted my mom was going to die.
you might as well be telling me to go live on the moon because that just wasn't something that could happen. the thought of leaving was scarier than the thought of staying. i never once thought about leaving. i thought about killing myself, but i didn't think about leaving. >> reporter: rolling out past the downtown grid, toward the wide-open flatlands north of wichita, kansas, it would be easy to zip by the small cluster of homes nestled between corn and wheat fields not notice them at all. maybe that was the point. but the nondescript compound did have a whimsical name angels landing and it was home to a kind of large put-together family, a commune really, including two sisters. >> we had a great relationship. i had everything i wanted. >> reporter: but angels landing gnawed at a county detective. for years he could not shake the place, or the people who lived there, from his mind.
>> you thought there was a criminal scheme goin' on here? >> it didn't smell right. >> for us, it was a game of cat and mouse. >> years before me too exploded as a global movement the detective's hunch would be proven right. but it was far more sinister than even he could imagine. >> we had kept this a secret for 10 years and no one knew. >> reporter: he would uncover a supernatural tale of angels and demons. the saga of a traveling family involved in most of the seven deadly sins. >> amber was the angel of death. >> did you believe it? >> he could see the future. >> reporter: lies? plenty. lust, greed, murder? angels landing had all of that and more. >> all i could think about was "how are they going to believe me? you know, this is such a crazy story. what if they don't believe me?" >> reporter: growing up near kansas city, missouri, the two sisters sara and emily had about
as normal a life as any suburban girls in the midwest. >> my sister and i used to play together when we were younger. my mom, it seemed like she was always home with us. and my dad was always there for dinner and things like that it seemed like. >> reporter: their dad built houses. mom, jennifer, a realtor, sold them. and the girls were close, despite a 7-year age gap. >> we would go fishing together. she would take me to the pool every day during the summer. things like that. so, i mean, we were close, but we fought like siblings. >> reporter: sara was 16. emily just 9 and a star student. >> i was a teacher's pet. and -- i was usually one of the top of my class. >> you were always prepared. >> yeah, i was a suck up. >> you said that. i didn't, emily. >> totally was. i didn't know it then. but i was. >> reporter: everything was easy sailing for the girls until their parents' lives went in different directions. >> i knew that my parents were getting divorced.
i didn't know why. they never fought in front of us or anything. >> reporter: that's always tough for kids. that summer, 2001, their mom jennifer was showing houses to a new client, a man named lou castro who, with his long hair, and western hat, looked for all the world like a well-heeled young cowboy. >> he seemed really charismatic and outgoing and friendly and like he had a lot of money. >> he would tell everybody that he had cattle in south dakota, and that he was trading stocks he told me he had a bunch of cars in texas somewhere, and that he owned a mansion down there. >> reporter: this soft-spoken man was looking for a country property for his somewhat new age family commune just down from south dakota: a young married couple, trish and brian hughes their baby girl and a young wm woman from north dakota. jennifer found them just the right parcel, but even after turning over the keys, there was something about that lou castro guy, that emily's mom found
irresistible. he'd become more than a client. >> well at first, he was just somebody that mom was doing business with. but they would go to lunch often. >> reporter: as you look back now emily what do you think went on with your mother? >> i don't know. >> reporter: but something was going on, huh? >> something was. >> reporter: and something was going on with lou too. no sooner had he settled down in greater kansas city, than his family commune was on the move again. and guess who was going with them? jennifer the realtor and her two girls. >> reporter: and what'd your dad think? >> my dad was devastated. >> reporter: just like that, in the fall of 2001. emily, sara and their mom were packing up a u-haul and heading out for a fresh start to life. you got to leave your neighborhood, your playmates, your class kids. >> at first, i was really upset. but -- eventually it kind of seemed like a new adventure and that that's what mom really needed to do.
>> reporter: the new home for all three was a ten-acre mini-farm north of wichita. they moved in with lou and his family commune in the spread they called angel's landing. the girls' mom jennifer bought the adjoining ten acres and built a second house. and after they added a swimming pool and a dirt track for atvs, the commune later put up a third house. while the girl's mom resumed her real estate business brian worked as a mechanic and lou organized his down time. >> he would throw parties about every weekend. there was a lot of drinking. other people would bring their kids over. we'd go swimming. i would take care of the little kids. we'd play pool. >> reporter: pretty normal. >> little lavish, but -- pretty normal stuff. >> reporter: lou loved toys with engines and there were a couple of workshops big enough to garage his enormous radio-controlled planes and a fleet of snazzy cars. >> going to a dealership and buying a corvette was like going
to a toy store and picking out a model car. like, that is how quickly. he would just go and pick one out, say, "all right. i want it." >> reporter: corvettes, dodge viper? >> many corvettes, a few dodge vipers. we had suburbans, tahoes, trail blazers -- big trucks, duallies. >> reporter: they had vanity plates angel one, angel two and so on. so a lot of it is kind of a kid's dream, huh? >> yeah. i mean i got everything i wanted. >> reporter: while the sisters did stay in touch with their dad who had moved nearby lou's promise of "whatever your heart desires" found a sweet spot. >> lou asked me what i wanted for my birthday. and i was like, "well, i would love to have a horse. but i know that it's expensive. and i know it's too much work. so, we're not gonna do that." he's like, "no, if you want a horse, we're gonna get a horse." >> reporter: you were the little girl who got a horse for your
birthday? >> i was. i got three horses. >> reporter: you were the princess of the house? >> yes. >> reporter: emily being the princess didn't always sit well with sister sara. so the other young mom in the family brian's wife trish sometimes stepped in to referee their sibling rivalry. she was the disciplinarian? >> kind of. there was a specific way to do things. and you did it her way. and that's just what was expected. >> reporter: what did you think of trish? did you like her? >> she was wonderful. i loved her just like another mom. >> reporter: so she really was substitute mom in a lot of things, huh? >> she was. >> reporter: so the sisters will never forget that awful day in june 2003. emily just 11-years-old found herself standing by the swimming pool. >> trish was floating in the shallow end of the pool, face down. >> reporter: a beach sandal floated on the water. trish was dead. jtsds weltsss -- the coming up, the horror of losing one of their own, the life had changed in a instant.
>> it was draity m idramatic. >> dark threats involving the spirit world and one seemingly demonic transformation sglemp t >> he would not blink, he would get a terrible grin that looked evil. >> when "dateline" continues. r. ♪ oh, what a relief it is so fast. hey! yeah!? i switched to geico and got more! more savings on car insurance!? they helped with homeowners, too! ok! plus motorcycle, boat and rv insurance! geico's got you covered! like a blanket! houston? you seeing this? geico. expect great savings and a whole lot more.
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who was married to brian and had a baby daughter -- took care of the home. >> trish kind of was the one that would be there before we went to school and after we went to school, because my mom had to work. >> did you like her? >> i loved her. i loved her. >> reporter: so what happened in june 2003 at angels landing came as a sudden life-altering shock. the day began normally enough for the sisters. >> we all had gone to lunch, trish and her daughter -- a friend of mine and her baby and then lou and my sister. and then we came back to the house after lunch. and trish and emily and the baby were going to clean the pool. >> that was the plan for the afternoon? >> right. and lou and i were gonna go to davis moore. >> car dealer? >> correct. >> so you go off to the car dealership with lou? >> uh-huh. >> reporter: back at the swimming pool, something truly awful had happened. >> i called 911. >> reporter: she told the operator that trish's toddler had fallen in to the pool, and when trish had tried to save her little girl she slipped backwards. >> she tripped and fell and hit the concrete? >> she fell and hit her head and drowned. >> and the baby was in trouble in the pool, and that you
rescued the baby but you couldn't help? >> right. >> reporter: emily got the baby out of the pool but, because she was just a wisp of a thing, try as she might -- emily could not lift trish's body out of the water. hopeless. across town, sara and lou were checking out cars at the dealership when sara's phone rang. >> i receive a phone call from emily. and she says that, "trish fell in the pool. i need you to come home." >> did she say that trish was dead? >> yes. >> so this is shocking news. you've all just had lunch a few hours before. and now you're hearing trish is dead, huh? >> uh-huh. >> reporter: lou and sara raced back home to angels landing, where police and emts were already on the scene. >> there's no reason to believe that she was under the influence of anything at this time. >> reporter: they had pulled trish's body from the pool, and taken photographs. a single beach sandal floated on the water's surface. pieces of trish's hair clip were in the pool. it had snapped apart when she
banged her head, they presumed. and there were small bruises and a cut on trish's forehead. the medical examiner determined trish's death was due to a freakishly bad accident. trish was just 26 years old. >> and trish was gone? >> yeah. >> reporter: the family was in a state of shock. >> devastated. >> trish had been kind of a mother of the house, the way you talk about her. >> yeah. >> for you, too. >> absolutely. it was really hard. it breaks my heart. >> reporter: and it was hard for lou. trish was someone he regarded as his best friend. lou had met trish in the mid '90s in south texas, after serving in the navy as a plane mechanic. and for eight years they were inseparable travelers. moving on to south dakota and ending up in wichita. >> it was very traumatic.
>> reporter: as the family commune tried to come to terms with the tragedy, trish's husband brian embraced his little daughter closer; and gradually, they all got on with their lives. >> and then, you're, what, goin' back to school and -- >> yep. exactly. >> reporter: still it was hard for the family to put trish's death behind them. and something else was troubling. emily and sara had a fuzzy recollection that trish wasn't the first person in the family commune to die. they'd recently met a teenager who'd also once been on the fringes of the commune. and he told a story with painful echoes. coming up, a tale of tragedy and mystery. and mystery.dxs >> i knew something wasn't right and he told me, "your mom and sister have been missing." >> two members of the commune vanish into thin air. when "dateline" continues. when "dateline" continues. shes s possible. i tell them, try cascade platinum plus the power of oxi. it breaks down food soils to clean up to 99% of visible and invisible food residue for a hygienic clean you can see and feel. cascade + the power of oxi. she said it was like someone else was controlling her mouth.
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>> reporter: at angels landing, the family commune was slowly mending after the devastating loss of trish hughes, who had drowned in the swimming pool, since covered over. sisters sara and emily saw trish's husband brian, an auto mechanic, a broken man, left to raise a daughter. >> brian loved trish more than anything in the world. and he loved his daughter immensely. he was a really just good person. he missed his wife. brian was sad. >> reporter: as they coped with the loss themselves, emily and sara had a flashback, and pieced together another incident when tragedy struck the family about two years before.
>> i wasn't there, and i'm glad i wasn't there. that would be more that i had lost. >> reporter: not long before trish's death, the sisters met 15-year-old cody griffith from texas, who'd also once been on the fringes of the family commune. he'd been close to trish and lou thanks to his mom, mona. my mom and trish were really great friends. they would do a lot together. >> reporter: cody's mom mona was something of a flower child. >> she was extremely loving -- very free-spirited. everything was spontaneous. there was really no planning. she could say, "hey, let's get in the car and drive somewhere." >> reporter: could've been a hippie in an earlier day, huh? >> maybe. just someone who is extremely loving, very accepting. >> reporter: when cody was growing up in corpus christi in the mid-90s, his mom, mona, was
going through a difficult divorce and financial trouble. she, cody and cody's young sister lindsey moved in with their good friends trish and lou from the apartment complex. i can remember lou taking us to baseball practice when my sister was little, picking her up from school and stuff like that. >> reporter: his mom, mona, and trish took turns cooking for what was the beginnings of the commune. so you're really an extended family? >> yeah, pretty much. i mean, it was like living with an aunt and uncle. >> reporter: so when trish and lou suddenly decided they wanted to pick up sticks and move to south dakota, mona wanted to go too, and to take cody and his sister lindsey along as well. >> i'll never forget it. it was just like yesterday, and i told her, "no, i'm not leaving." and i had gotten extremely upset. >> reporter: the very thought of being so far away from his dad was too much for cody. so what did she say? "yes, you are. you're gonna go with us?" >> no. she let me make that decision. she would have not wanted me to do something i didn't wanna do. >> reporter: so in late 1998, mona and cody's younger sister lindsey ended up leaving corpus christi and settled near rapid
city, south dakota, where, one christmas, cody paid them a visit. it was an extremely small home. it was like in the mountains. we even went and cut our own christmas tree. >> reporter: off the grid kind of a cabin? >> yeah. >> reporter: the cabin was a tight-squeeze for sure, but the family commune was growing. it was here that trish met and married brian, the auto mechanic, and they had a daughter. mona, cody's mom, had also found a boyfriend, a rapid city realtor and experienced private plane pilot. you were okay with that, huh? >> oh, yeah. i wanted my mom to be happy. >> reporter: one friday in february of 2001, mona and her boyfriend decided to take daughter lindsey on an exciting birthday trip to nebraska. exciting because mona's boyfriend would fly them there himself. they took off from rapid city. but not long after, something went terribly wrong.
how did you find out about the plane? my dad had called me inside, and he just looked at me. and i knew something wasn't right. and then he just told me, "hey, your mom and sister have been missing." >> reporter: your dad must have been all ripped up, huh? >> there's nothing you can say. i mean he didn't -- there was no way that he could explain to his son that his sister and mom are gone. >> reporter: as cody was praying for a miracle, mona's sister lisa also got a phone call, from another sister. >> and she's crying hysterically. and she said that mona and lindsey had left on a plane, and the plane had never reached its destination. and they didn't know where it was. >> reporter: mona's boyfriend hadn't filed a flight plan, so the plane could be anywhere. rugged territory. >> correct. up in the badlands area, we assume, or nebraska.
we really had no clue. >> reporter: but in south dakota, lou castro, a former navy plane mechanic, was on it. when lisa paid a short visit to try to help find her sister and niece, lou was in constant touch with search and rescue. a huge comfort. soft spoken, nice, funny, friendly. he seemed very concerned. very, very distraught over mona and lindsey's disappearance. and very helpful. i mean, he was very gracious in whatever we wanted. >> reporter: so it's "thank goodness we have lou at the helm here," huh? >> exactly. you know, he didn't work. so he seemed to have plenty of time. he seemed to know everybody. they knew him. we were grateful that there was somebody that was -- had taken control and was keeping us in
the loop also. >> reporter: at a gathering of lindsey's school friends in support of the search, lou seemed especially popular with all the girls. >> oh, they were mesmerized by him. >> was he telling them stories or jokes or -- >> uh-huh, laughing. he knew them all quite well. we could tell. >> reporter: was there something a little creepy about it? i don't want to plant an idea here that -- that didn't exist. >> they all knew lou, but they didn't know lindsey's mom. i just -- i just found that strange. >> reporter: six weeks after the plane went missing, lisa and cody got the news they were dreading. the wreckage had been found. there were no survivors. so that's the end of hope? this is not gonna have a miraculous ending? >> yeah. uh-huh. >> reporter: cody traveled back to rapid city, and once again saw lou, who seemed distraught. >> he starts crying and he tells me that my little sister was
never supposed to be on the plane. he tells me that if my mom would have only been on the plane, that he says, you know "i would have taken your sister and we would have left." >> reporter: he would have become like the adoptive father then? >> right. >> reporter: how would he know whether she was supposed to be or not? >> i don't know. >> reporter: looking back, do you wonder what he meant by that? >> every day. every day. >> reporter: an ntsb investigation into the catastrophe found no mechanical problems with the plane, leaning toward a theory that bad weather had contributed to the crash. when do you miss your mom and sister the most? times along the way when you've been growing up? [ sniffling ] cody, i don't think you need to put any words to it. >> you really can't. >> reporter: lou and trish, not blood relatives, determined the burial place for mona and lindsey -- a surprise to lisa, who again raised an eyebrow when she saw her sister's and niece's obituary in a south dakota newspaper. >> and it lists myself, my two sisters, and her brother lou. we're like "where did we pick up a brother?" >> reporter: later, as emily
recalled the awful story of the plane crash, she too remembered lou telling her what he'd told cody. >> he said that lindsey wasn't supposed to die. >> reporter: whatever that meant, in 2003, after trish's death in the swimming pool, emily and her sister sara weren't the only ones trying to make sense of it all. a local detective in wichita was also taking an interest in the plane crash, and the death of trish hughes, and in whatever else might be going on at angels landing. something wasn't adding up. >> one thing was adding up -- the death toll of commune member z another was just around the corner. >> we got the call that he had been crushed under a car he was fixing. right, everyone, we made. my job is to help new homeowners who have turned into their parents. i'm having a big lunch and then just a snack for dinner. so we're using a speakerphone in the store. is that a good idea?
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coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, the moderna vaccine can be stored at regular freezer temperature and 6 million doses are ready to be delivered in the coming days. and congress passed a two-day stop gap funding bill buying time to strike a covid relief deal. the daily death total is approaching 3,000 once again. now, back to "dateline." >> reporter: in late 2003, after the drowning death of 26-year-old trish hughes, the mood at angels landing was grim. sisters emily and sara watched as the family commune patriarch lou tried to cheer everyone up. another young woman had joined the commune and soon lou and she were engaged with a little girl on the way. and as the clouds lifted over angels landing, shiny new rides appeared in the drive. >> before trisha died, there was
three corvettes and everybody else had an suv. and then, after trish died, it got more and more and more extravagant. >> reporter: more vehicles? sports cars? >> higher-priced vehicles. >> reporter: salesmen must have been licking their chops to see him coming, huh? >> they were. we all had the dealership's owner's cell phones, cell phone. >> reporter: speed dial, huh? >> yeah. >> reporter: in fact lou spent a million and a half dollars on cars in just a few years. and his lavish generosity didn't stop at the family. civic-minded lou was showered with high-fives from the city council after he donated $19,000 towards a brand new police vehicle. and cops were always welcome at the extravagant parties thrown by lou at angels landing. one of the officers in the county dated one of the women there for while, huh? >> that was me. >> reporter: it was you? >> uh-huh. >> reporter: but not everyone in uniform was joining in the fun.
>> it didn't smell right. >> reporter: a local informant gave a, "psst, check it out," to wichita detective ron goodwyn an undercover narcotics officer who ended up recruiting two law-enforcement heavyweights. and in early 2003, from the shadows, the detective was eyeballing the commune, zeroing in on lou castro. ron, why did you become interested in him in particular? >> he drew attention to himself. >> reporter: kinda flashy or ostentatious? >> flashy. he had what appeared to be unexplained wealth, drew attention to himself with parties, high optioned vehicles. each vehicle had an angel vanity plate with a number after it, one, two, three, four. >> reporter: maybe he had old family money, was an inheritance guy. >> sure. and that was something that we had to look at without violating any of his rights. >> reporter: you thought there was a lot of smoke around this guy, but you didn't know what exactly it was coming from? >> there was. >> reporter: and the smoke kept billowing when goodwyn learned about the death of trish hughes. so her death didn't trigger your interest in him?
>> it absolutely triggered more of my interest in him. >> reporter: goodwyn wanted to find out exactly who lou castro was. he ran castro's name in law enforcement databases, quickly discovered he was trying to put his finger on a man who seemed to have no past, a virtual ghost. and not long after trish hughes's death, he trawled the internet. >> and as i started researching. i started noticing that there were other deaths associated with him. >> reporter: he landed on that obituary of mona and her daughter lindsey, and bingo, there was lou's name. >> that was the first time i had seen lou castro in print. >> reporter: underlying goodwyn's suspicion about castro's unexplained wealth he theorized he had a drug case. >> i worked drug cases and unexplained wealth is, is something that you look at to determine if that's how this person might be earning their money. >> reporter: so goodwyn set out to collect evidence from angels landing. he began with the trash bags. maybe inside there was evidence of drugs, incriminating documents or a fingerprint?
so maybe if you can get a fingerprint, somewhere he'll be in the system and you'll come up with a name? >> that's right. >> reporter: you tried to get a fingerprint. >> i did. >> reporter: and the tech guys couldn't come up with anything? >> they could not. >> reporter: frustrating. there was no evidence of drugs. and nearly three years later there were still no clues as to who lou castro was. but in 2006, came another shocking coincidence. brian hughes, trish's husband, an experienced 31-year-old mechanic who was raising their daughter in the commune suffered an unimaginable accident. as emily tells it, brian was visiting family in south dakota. >> one day he called and he spoke to lou for a little while and then he asked to speak to his daughter, who was still in wichita. and the story goes that he told her goodbye. >> reporter: told his daughter goodbye? >> right. and then, a couple hours later,
we got the call that he had been crushed underneath a car that he was fixing. >> reporter: brian was dead. really? that didn't make any sense to emily. >> he would have put blocks under the tires. >> reporter: he knew his way around a vehicle? >> right. >> reporter: and then, he was dead? >> yeah. >> reporter: the bodies were piling up, five now. but none of the findings in any of the cases, including brian's, concluded there was foul play. >> it was classified, and still is classified, as an accident. >> reporter: detective goodwyn decided he was going to have to find a new angle on the enigma of angels landing and lou castro even if he had to work around the clock. what drove you on this thing? >> there had to be something else out there he was hiding from. >> reporter: the mystery? >> the mystery of lou castro, his true identity. >> reporter: one thing was for sure, goodwyn wasn't going to let this go. coming up, yet another member of the commune meets a tragic end, but this time a light bulb would go off.
>> what we saw was a pattern. >> reporter: as investigators dig in to lou's past, he starts to seem like a ghost. >> there should have been credit records, driver's license records, and we could find none. >> when "dateline" continues. instantly clear every day congestion with vicks sinex saline nasal mist. for drug free relief that works fast. vicks sinex. instantly clear everyday congestion.
daughter lindsey had perished in the plane crash, trish had drowned in the swimming pool and brian had been crushed beneath a car he was working on. while all of the deaths were deemed to be accidents really he wondered how could any family be so unlucky? what baffled him most is he didn't know who the central man, lou castro, really was. rifling through angels landing trash cans hadn't worked. what do you do next? >> one day when i was out on a day off i just happened to see lou castro with a female in an suv vehicle. i followed them to a restaurant on the north end of town. goodwyn sat in the restaurant, watched and waited. >> after they finished, i contacted the manager and asked if i could collect the dishes and glasses they had used at that table. >> reporter: the idea was to get fresh fingerprints that could maybe i.d. castro. >> did that work?
>> we tried every piece of dinner ware but were unsuccessful. >> reporter: he is still a mystery man. >> that's right. >> he tried another fingerprint ploy. he cooked up a story about burglaries in the neighborhood. could lou recognize the cars or people in the photos. >> so you hand the glossy 8x10s to the guy who you believe is lou castro. >> i do. >> how did he handle them. >> he takes the envelopes and holds them between his palms and once the photos are out of the envelope he moves the photos around with his fingernails and did not pick up the photos with his fingers. >> he knew what you were go doing and didn't give you a fingerprint. >> raised my suspicion he was hiding from law enforcement. >> reporter: he called a
detective who worked high-profile cases like the notorious wichita btk case. >> it was an amazing story when ron told me. all these mysterious deaths and of course in this business you don't believe in coincidences so i felt like that ron was onto something. >> reporter: ron enlisted another big gun to help i.d. castro, john sullivan. >> we checked the fbi databases and private databases. i had the officers go out and get photographs, pull arrest records. we checked every lou castro we could find in the u.s. none matched the lou castro living in wichita. >> how unusual is that that the fbi cannot through all its resources come up with a name and idea on a guy? >> that's extremely unusual, especially in this day and age because usually everybody has a
trail. there should have been credit records, driver's license record and all sorts of records and we could find none. >> reporter: none of the car purchases, property deeds and utility bills at angel's landing were under the name lou castro. they were all under the names of commune members. just as goodwyn was feeling stuck, another extraordinary tragedy was about to shake angels landing. in happened in 2008 when sara was almost 24 and emily 17. >> i called mom after school to have dinner with her. she didn't answer her phone. i was so angry with her. because she ignored my phone call. about 30 minutes into the test i was taking, they pulled me out of class. my dad was there. he said, we have to go. and he started driving me to my house and i said, dad, we have
to go to the hospital. and he said, no, emily, we don't. >> 911. what's the location. had swerved into the oncoming traffic. >> she had hit a gravel truck head on a rural road. >> so your mother was suddenly dead. >> right. >> reporter: may have been distraction or turn away from trouble. we really don't know, do we? >> no idea. she just bought a little yorky and for the past couple of weeks she had been happy. >> reporter: what did the make of what happened? >> they said it was an accident. >> reporter: the investigators couldn't ignore that jennifer's head-on highway death was the sixth in eight years from the same family commune. >> does that change your interest in the case?
are you amped up more? >> i think we all were. what we saw was a pattern. >> reporter: approximately every 2 1/2 years there was a mysterious death, deemed each time to be an accident. while the officers suspected lou castro was somehow involved they had no hard evidence on which to arrest him. they had to just wait. >> it's not that easy. we did not want to tip off what we were looking at and if he knew we were looking at him, he could move or change the way he does business. >> reporter: and you still did not know who he was. >> reporter: and a year later in 2009, castro did what they feared, he took off but just as the investigators thought lou castro might have slipped away they got their first big break. coming up -- a troubling encounter shakes sara. >> he was very angry with me, scary angry. >> and then someone new gives detectives their first look in the mysterious world of angels landing.
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>> reporter: detective ron goodwyn believed the man known as lou castro was somehow linked to six mysterious deaths in the midwest. but he didn't know how or why. and now, unbeknownst to the detective, lou castro had slipped away. left wichita. it happened suddenly. a few months after their mother's death in the 2008 car crash, emily and sara were still traumatized when lou announced a move to tennessee. how was that approached to the family, we're moving to tennessee. >> he said we really needed to go. angry with him for wanting to move. i didn't want to go. i wanted to stay. lou said emily we are doing this for you. >> reporter: for you? >> yep, he said we were going to
be closer to vanderbilt, which was the college i wanted to go to. and he said this whole move was for me. >> that's kind of flattering to hear. >> yeah, well -- and also, how do you say no when the entire thing is about you? >> so you were still the princess? >> right. >> reporter: emily was 17, but sara was nearly 24 and edging away from the smothering nest. >> i moved out. >> how'd you do that? that's a huge step. >> they were leaving to go to tennessee and i didn't wanna go. and i had just lost my mom and i couldn't stand the thought of losing my dad. i never have been able to stand that thought. my daddy is so important to me. >> and did you tell lou to his face, "i'm not going. i'm not gettin' in the car"? >> yes. >> how'd that go down? >> he was very angry with me. scary angry. and i just said, "i'm -- i can't. i'm not doin' that. i don't wanna be that far away from my dad. i don't. there's no way." >> reporter: emily might have gone to live with their father,
but she remained with the commune. >> i wasn't going to leave what i considered my family. >> and your dad was part of another family back when but -- >> i mean i still visited my dad and i still loved my dad, but that's just not where i was going to live. >> reporter: so as the family -- and emily -- moved to a beautiful colonial home on acreage in columbia, tennessee, sara stood her ground in wichita. she could exhale at last. and one evening, she went out and met a guy. his name was daniel -- an expert marksman in the kansas national guard. and as they fell in love, she began to spill the buried secrets of her past. >> you'd think nobody could have these dark stories that are part of your life. but you had just awful, awful things to tell? >> uh-huh. yes. >> reporter: sara was still in touch with the family commune, now living in tennessee. and daniel wanted to know more about this lou character sara was telling him about. >> and i just started researching all these deaths to
try to figure out, you know, how much of it was related to this individual. >> which is exactly what law enforcement was doin' on the outside of all this, trying to look in and figure out where the puzzle lay. what'd you feel about these stories? a lot of mixed emotions. i didn't know how to handle a lot of stuff at that time. because it was all very fresh, very new to me. and just stuck with her and decided, you know, let's try to make things right. >> reporter: and secretly, daniel decided to take action. >> you put together a remarkable letter for the fbi. >> yes. >> that took some guts to do it. >> i was just pretty much just tired of me carrying all that information myself. i found out enough that i believed that it should be in somebody else's hands that can do something with it. >> reporter: daniel laid out his suspicions, painting an alarming picture of the angels landing commune -- a series of mysterious deaths, a code of silence enforced with sickening threats, and a big clue as to where all the money might have come from.
and at the center of it all -- the man who called himself lou castro. even for this veteran of the wars in afghanistan and iraq, reporting to the authorities carried its risks. >> you worry about that? >> i did. but i decided, you know, this was something i have to do and the chips will fall where they fall. >> and turns out the authorities were very, very interested in what you had to say? >> yes. >> reporter: so in december 2009, nearly seven-years after the wichita investigation began, detectives goodwyn and snyder and the fbi agent sullivan got their first break -- the email from daniel. >> and in the email, he told us what he thought was happening. but the great thing about it was, for the first time, we had somebody from the inside that could confirm some of our suspicions. >> saying you guys really need to look at this guy, lou castro? >> yes. >> and i'm guessing you get a holy cow phone call, huh? >> yes. we finally have a cooperating witness that will help us
determine who lou castro is. >> reporter: in secret -- without sara knowing -- they brought daniel in and peppered him with questions. >> he related to us how lou castro and the others had moved to a residence in columbia, tennessee. we were reluctant to talk to his girlfriend because, again, we did not want to tip off lou castro or anybody else. >> reporter: and daniel, their inside man, delivered the mother lode. >> they'd bring me pictures, "do you -- can you identify these people?" >> they're out at the gate lookin', you know, surveilling, watching cars come and go. but you're able to put the picture together for them? >> correct. >> reporter: armed with daniel's email and his intel, goodwyn, snyder and sullivan got an official green light to pursue castro and try to take him out of business. and, castro, walking into a bank in tennessee, was about to make a big mistake. coming up, investigators finally get inside the doors of the commune.
the money transferred to columbia, tennessee banks. emily remembers the day lou set up a new account. >> did you go to the bank with him? >> i did. >> did you know the authorities were looking at him for years in wichita? >> no. >> the investigators pulled the security camera video, there, clearly visible was emily and there was a man called joe venagas opening the account. >> who did you see? lou castro. >> the investigators believed he was neither lou castro and nor joe venegas, a week later they
moved in. coming up, investigators finally get inside the doors of the commune. and later, sinister stories of angels landing's dark angel. >> amber was the angel of death, she'd come around when somebody was going to die. >> then you'll hear from lou castro himself when "dateline" continues. ♪ you must go and i must bide ♪ but come ye back when su-- mom, dad. why's jamie here? it's sunday. sunday sing along. and he helped us get a home and auto bundle. he's been our insurance guy for five years now. he makes us feel like we're worth protecting. [ gasps ] why didn't you tell us about these savings, flo? i've literally told you a thousand times. ♪ oh, danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling ♪
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>> reporter: it's a striking colonial house deep in the countryside outside nashville, tennessee. and in 2010, this was where lou castro's household lived. there was lou, his fiance and their daughter; emily was there too and other commune members. based on information sara's boyfriend daniel had supplied to the three determined investigators, the fbi was now
bird-dogging the property. but inside, emily and the other occupants were oblivious. so tennessee. the house looks very nice. you weren't happy about leaving your -- your classmates and your life in wichita, but were you pleased at what the prospects were for you in tennessee? >> i was. i mean it was really hard going to school there and things, but i just started focusing on getting to college and things like that. >> reporter: emily recalls there had been so many changes. and one change in particular was unusual. lou's name. lou now wanted to be called "joe." how did he explain that to you? that, "i'm not gonna be lou. don't call me lou over here anymore." >> i think because he didn't have the proper, like, identification to actually get legitimately established as lou. so he needed, like, an actual social security card and an actual driver's license. investigators found out low was going by the name of joe. they believed he had committed
identity fraud which gave them what they needed to make an arrest. >> we approached him as joe vanegas. we called him joe to his face. he corrected us and told us he was in fact lou castro. so he went back to his old identity. >> was he shaky to see law enforcement at his front door? >> i didn't think so. >> he was confident that he was going to be able to explain away why we were there. >> the officers arrested him, charged him and searched the property. >> what did you find in the house? >> normal things. we found paper documents, we found computers, we found 11 weapons, guns inside the house. >> any smoking guns? >> no. >> emily had been on her way home from school when she got a call from detective goodyyn. >> he said, emily, where are
you? i'm detective goodwyn, you need to come home. >> i showed up and they came out and i just about fainted and goodwyn had to practically carry me into the house because i was terry fight. >> what did they tell you it was all about? >> i don't remember. i remember i didn't tell them anything. >> lou was continuing to compel the officers by not giving up his name. >> castro's if i can ger prints didn't show up. after a six hour interview, he didn't crack. after the search warrant, tennessee trip we came back to wichita, partly happy because we had arrested lou castro but we still didn't know who he was at that point. >> when castro pleaded guilty to
i.d. fraud and was sentenced to two years in federal prison, goodwyn believed that was a ploy to evade serious charges. seven years after opening up his investigation into angels landing, he set off to the place he believed lou castro's criminal journey began. and at last found castro's true identity. coming up, the discovery that would break the case wide open. >> i snatched it out of his hands and said, "where did you get that?" >> reporter: when "dateline" continues. continues. advil says you can. what if your clothes could stay fresh for weeks?t smell clean? now they can! this towel has already been used and it still smells fresh. pour a cap of downy unstopables into your washing machine
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he believed castro was involved in much more serious crimes. heavy duty stuff. maybe even those mysterious deaths: the plane crash that killed mona, her boyfriend and her daughter lindsey; the death of brian hughes under a collapsed vehicle; that inexplicable head-on tragedy in which sara's and emily's mom jennifer died? and trish hughes's drowning. as the investigators called everyone with links to castro, the phone trail took goodwyn to south texas. >> it took us to south texas because patricia hughes the victim in the drowning was from beeville, texas. >> reporter: goodwyn questioned trish's family and a sister recalled trish had gone with a guy way back when. >> a guy by the name of daniel perez. >> reporter: had you ever heard that name in all your years of trying to figure out who lou castro was? >> no, i'd never heard that name. >> reporter: daniel perez. goodwyn immediately contacted the local authorities and it turned out there was a record of a daniel perez and a mug shot. >> they faxed that to me that
day. >> i remember when ron finally got the fax from texas and i snatched it out of his hands and said where did you get that? it was often it was the person we knew as lou castro. but now we, of course, knew he was daniel perez. >> reporter: we got our guy here? >> yes. >> reporter: lou castro was daniel perez born in aransas pass, tx in 1959. the records showed daniel perez had pleaded no contest to two sex crimes in the mid-1990s. but the cases had been dismissed because he was believed to be dead. and the person believed in south texas to have been dead for many years wasn't dead because you saw him in wichita. you'd seen him driving his corvettes. >> that's right. >> reporter: so he was on the lam? >> he was on the lam. >> reporter: in kansas and tennessee, interviews with the angels landing commune helped goodwyn connect the dots between six states and more than a dozen commune members over a period of about 15 years. and something else happened. emily wrote a letter to lou while he was serving time for id
fraud. >> i said "i'm finally going where i wanna go and i'm doing the things i wanna do." and he wrote me back and chewed me out for not caring about him. >> reporter: that was the price of being -- >> right. >> reporter: -- his little princess. >> i was saying that i was happy. and he took that as a slap in the face. and i stopped talking to him. >> reporter: instead, emily started talking to the investigators - but warily. she and sara trickled out their stories, fearful they too might be implicated in whatever goodwyn suspected. >> it took a lot of questioning and lots of tears and lots of detective goodwyn telling me that it was gonna be all right and that i wasn't in trouble. >> reporter: sara and emily's whole terrifying saga began when sara was 17 and emily just 10. a supernatural world began to emerge soon after their mom got
to know the man they called lou in 2001 as they prepared to move into angels landing. >> mom said, you know, "emily, does" i think sara was in the car, too. "does lou seem kinda special to you?" and i was like, "yeah, he's pretty nice." and she's like, "well, you know, he's actually a seer." >> reporter: a seer? >> a seer. mom said that he had told her that he was hundreds or thousands of years old, and that he could see what was going to happen in the future and that the reason we followed him was that she just had that instinct and just knew that she needed to be close to him, because he could protect her and keep her safe, because he knew what was coming. >> reporter: did you believe it? >> i mean i was a little skeptical at first. but i think when you're nine or ten and your mom says that this is really what's happening you give it a little bit more credibility. >> reporter: and it wasn't just emily's and sara's mom. others at angels landing believed lou was a direct descendent of geronimo and had
the power to make it rain and bring good health to those at death's door. >> trish had told me about similar incidents where either lou had been dead or an animal had been dead or somebody had been really sick and he made them better. >> reporter: did you believe it? >> yes. he could also see people, like, from the past, like, people that'd already died, he could see those people too. >> reporter: see them because he said he was an angel. >> lou said, you know, "your mom is right. i am hundreds of years old. this isn't really my body, you know. "i've died several times, but this is just the one i'm in right now." >> reporter: what did you think? >> it seemed really cool, you know. it was like being so special, and being around this thing that nobody else gets to do. >> reporter: your very own angel? >> right. it's like seeing santa claus. you get really excited when you're ten-years-old. and, you know, he was tellin' us
that he would take care of us, and he would always make sure that we were safe. >> reporter: but safety meant lou needed control. >> he was the one that told everybody what they were gonna do and when they were gonna do it and how they were gonna do that. >> really bossy guy? he was very good at, like, manipulating you i guess you could say. >> reporter: he seemed to know where peoples buttons were you could say. >> yeah, he acted like he was my dad. >> reporter: what do you think that thing was that he put together that you got pulled into, sara? >> a cult. >> reporter: cult? and the guy you knew only as lou castro was the cult leader? >> yes. >> reporter: what is that thing that he had? >> reporter: detective ron goodwyn was incredulous listening to all of this. but nothing could have prepared
him for what came next. lou castro the seer had three angel alter egos. >> they were always watching over him. daniel, amber, and arthur. >> like, arthur was mean. and daniel was kinder. >> reporter: but you didn't wanna meet either of these alternate personalities, huh? >> no. no. >> amber was the angel of death. so, she would come around when somebody was going to die. >> reporter: he could see who was going to die? was that something he -- >> yes. >> reporter: said was in his powers? >> right. >> reporter: and did you ever see that personality in him? >> i did. he wouldn't blink. he would get this terrible grin that just looked evil. >> reporter: the sisters say before their mom's death, castro had a terrifying vision. >> he predicted that my mom was going to die. >> reporter: so how'd you feel about this? >> devastated. >> it was awful. >> reporter: the outlandish stories were shocking to ron goodwyn, a seasoned detective, who was about to discover more about lou castro's power over
life and death. emily was about to take the detective back to that summer day in 2003 when trish hughes drowned in the swimming pool at angels landing. and her story is that tricia hughes is not an accidental drowning. >> that's right. coming up -- what emily heard. >> and then what emily saw. >> when "dateline" continues. with less eczema, you can show more skin. so roll up those sleeves. and help heal your skin from within with dupixent. dupixent is the first treatment of its kind that continuously treats moderate-to-severe eczema, or atopic dermatitis, even between flare ups. dupixent is a biologic, and not a cream or steroid. many people taking dupixent saw clear or almost clear skin, and, had significantly less itch. don't use if you're allergic to dupixent. serious allergic reactions can occur,
including anaphylaxis, which is severe. tell your doctor about new or worsening eye problems, such as eye pain or vision changes, or a parasitic infection. if you take asthma medicines, don't change or stop them without talking to your doctor. so help heal your skin from within, and talk to your eczema specialist about dupixent. if your financial situation has changed, we may be able to help. she said it was like someone else was controlling her mouth. her doctor said she has tardive dyskinesia,
which may be related to important medication she takes for her depression. td can affect different parts of the body. - [narrator] in today's trying times, we're here to help you manage td. visit talkabouttd.com for a doctor discussion guide to prep for your next appointment in person, over the phone, or online. - we were so relieved to learn there are treatments for td.
hello. i'm dara brown. here's what's happening. the vice president and his wife received the first dose of the pfizer vaccine on live television on friday. president-elect joe biden and his wife jill are expected to be vaccinated monday. the fda authorized a second coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, the moderna vaccine can be stored at regular freezer temperature. unlike the pfizer counterpart. 6 million doses are ready to be delivered in the coming days. now back to "dateline."
>> reporter: detective ron goodwyn was scarcely able to take in the story of the cult, and the occult, at angels landing. sisters emily and sara recounted that lou castro, whose real name was daniel perez, had brainwashed them into believing that he was a seer, and that he took on the personalities of dark manipulative angels who could predict someone's death. they said they believed it really happened. eight months after castro's arrest, emily took the detective back to 2003 and the tragic death of trish hughs. this is different than what she said back when she was 11.
>> they were sitting at a table when lou castro, the seer, had a visi vision. >> he said, something big is going to happen. he said, trish is going to die. i started crying. he said, it's okay. it's her time. >> she said, castro told her not to worry. while he couldn't be there when trish died, he would still bring trish back to life. >> and she'll come back. >> do i understand that trish is listening in on all of this? >> right. >> she's hearing this described? >> yes. >> is she startled? >> no, she was quite involved. >> the angel's landing family had gone out to lunch. >> we had just gotten back to lunch. he said, we're going to go to the dealership to look at a car. i think it was for sarah, but i don't remember. and he said, but the pool needs
to be cleaned so you and trish are going to stay here and clean it. >> yup. >> he said emily, it's time. and i said, okay. >> she says, lou began to set up the cleaning equipment for the pool a few feet away from the workshop. >> you're going to wait inside the shop with the little one. i said, okay. so i gave trish a hug on the diving board and i started crying and she said, why are you crying? i said, because i'm going to miss you. she said, it will be okay. >> then emily waited inside the workshop. a few minutes go by, there's a splash, a little scream. >> a little bit of a scream? >> yeah, like a shriek. and then he came in and he was panting or out of breath and he looked sad and his arms were wet. >> then she said, lou gave emily a critical order. >> wait 20 minutes and then go out there. make sure you and the baby jump
in so that you're wet and call 911. so we went and we played with the kittens in the shop and i waited. it was an agonizing 20 minutes. >> trying to entertain the little girl. >> knowing that trish was outsi outside. >> time goes by. you leave the shed, go over to the pool? >> we went to the pool. trish was floating in the shallow end of the pool face down so i got the baby and i jumped in. just to get yourself wet. >> yes. >> because you had a story he fed you. >> right. >> that you have attempted to rescue the baby? >> right. >> how awful, there you're seeing trish floating dead in the pool. >> i lost it. >> even so, emily called 911 just as she had been ordered by castro and told the story that trip had slipped while trying to save the baby, banked her head
and drowned and in the crucial 20 minute window lou had taken emily's sister sarah to the car dealership. >> i believe he drowned trip. >> not an accident at all. >> pushed her head under the water and killed her? >> yes. >> detective believed they had within horribly duped. emily told the detective castro shored up his alley by with more hocus pocus and telling her with his powers as a zeseer he had p her in a time warp that she wasn't even at the pool when she drowned. she waited and waited for lou to bring trish back to life but she was gone and for years her death remained an accidental drowning. >> i know that it was because of the story that i told and there was a lot of regret that comes along with that.
>> but you're not to blame for this. >> the control that he had over her was unlimited. she would do anything for him. she truly believed that he was this person. >> and with emily's story, he had the evidence he had been seeking for so many years of castro's grievous crimes. >> now based on this little girl's story. what she saw and took part in as a little girl, you've got a murder case? >> yes. >> but as if murder wasn't enough, emily and sarah had more to tell. there were more crimes to reveal, even more ugly stuff. sara and emily were about to take investigators into their truly diabolical world. >> reporter: emily, here's the really difficult part of your story. and i'll let you tell as little
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>> the story about trish's drowning or his wildest suspicion could prepare him for what he was about to hear next. >> reporter: emily, here's the really difficult part of your story. and i'll let you tell as little or as much of it as you like. but you seemed right away to be sharing the bedroom with lou. >> yes. i was -- i was 10. >> reporter: 10 years old? >> yes. and i was in his bed every night. he convinced me this is what i needed to do to take care of him and this was my job. >> reporter: and why did he say that he needed you? >> he said that, for a seer, he
needed to have a pure little girl to have sex with him so that he could survive. >> reporter: and that would recharge his batteries as the angel who's hundreds, maybe thousands of years old? >> right. and he would validate it with old biblical stories or things like that, about how little girls are special. >> reporter: did you think it was wrong or out of line at the time? >> no. i wanted to take care of him. that's what i was supposed to do. it's hard to explain, but i loved lou. i loved him quite a bit. and, so, i did it. it was uncomfortable. and it was painful. and it breaks my heart now, you know. it's really hard for me to look at pictures of myself when i was little. but -- >> reporter: your -- your childhood was stolen from you. >> it was. >> reporter: by this man. >> it was. >> reporter: even when castro got engaged and had a child, the abuse didn't stop, though emily
was pushed out of the bedroom. >> i was 12 and i felt like i was getting divorced. >> reporter: for sara the awful reality was not so dissimilar. she too was subjected to castro's mind games, as she says he sought to control her. >> like trying to drive a wedge between my sister and i. >> were you jealous of emily? uh-huh. he tried to make me jealous of her, yes. >> reporter: and she says castro was more violent with her than he was with her sister. >> if you didn't follow lou's way, what would happen? >> he would rape me. >> rape you? >> uh-huh. >> how awful. >> i mean, there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times and i can't tell you every single time. but you try not to remember those things. >> how old were you when it began? >> seventeen. >> reporter: castro's abuse was
backed up by demonic threats if the girls didn't obey him. >> he told me he was going to take me to purgatory. >> he would threaten to take people to purgatory so they'd be forever in limbo. but -- >> and that was his capacity and his skills as an angel, to -- >> right. >> take your soul to purgatory? >> right. and the, it's important to remember that he, lou would never make these threats. it was the angels who were inhabiting his body who would make these threats. and, so, the next morning, he'd wake up and he'd be like, "mama, i love you. i'm so sorry." and i'm like, really? >> now, where's your mom when -- when all this is -- is goin' on? >> it was, like, usually really late at night. and so she would be sleeping in her house. and -- >> 'cause you had by then, two or three different properties, huh? >> yeah. >> reporter: and what about all the other adults? >> there's brian, there's trisha. there are people coming and going. people goin' to the pool parties and maybe seeing things. nobody intervened? >> nobody saw it.
you know, i think that's really important is that nobody saw the abuse. and i have spoken to people who were there and i guarantee you, nobody knew. he was very careful. i never had a bruise. >> except psychologically. >> right. and i was always with him, so it wouldn't be weird for us to disappear for an hour or two. you know? it -- nobody knew. >> reporter: but castro didn't just manipulate the girls for sex. he ordered sara secretly to videotape a young child in a bathroom, orders backed up with the most sadistic of threats. >> and was he happy with what you showed him? >> no. he made me do it twice, because the first time he said that i didn't get what he needed me to get. >> if you had said, "no, i'm not gonna take that video camera. i'm not gonna go with that little girl," what would have done to you, do you think? >> he'll say "i'm gonna make your worst nightmare come true.
i'm gonna kill your dad." >> reporter: it was the same reason she never told her dad about the abuse. >> he was always threatening to kill my dad. >> and that was his big go-to thing with you? >> yes. 'cause i'm a daddy's girl. >> and he knew that? >> uh-huh. >> reporter: she says the acute fear castro instilled in her was even worse when he'd been drinking. one evening he was brandishing an assault rifle. >> he shot a gun at my head. >> at you? >> yes. because he was angry with me. >> he enjoyed the pain. he enjoyed making people miserable, and making people terrified. he enjoyed it. >> reporter: but so great was castro's power that leaving didn't seem to be an option for the young girl. >> you didn't have any money and a plan b or anything. but you did have your dad back home. >> i think that that's -- that's a pretty common thing for people in these types of situations that everybody says, "well, you could've left then.
and you could've left then." but that didn't seem like a possibility. the thought of leaving was scarier than the thought of staying. the scary part is what if he's right i am useless? what if he's right nobody will love me? what if he's right and he is a seer and -- >> and does have an avenging angel who will come get you. >> and that's scarier than staying. >> and you believed that -- that might happen. >> i did. and i know i physically could've now. but i never once thought about leaving. i thought about killing myself, but i didn't think about leaving. >> how do you ever get over that? >> you don't. i have ptsd. >> i'm not at all surprised. >> reporter: ron goodwyn, aghast at what he was hearing, believed he had been told of crimes that could see daniel perez aka lou castro, already in prison, behind bars for a very long time. >> he's a sexual predator who is willing to do anything to get
his way and do what he wants to do. live a life like he wants to live. he will stop at nothing, including, you know, murder and rape. and he didn't stop at anything to get what he wanted. >> reporter: after the investigators presented all their evidence to the da, they waited until castro had completed his two-year federal prison sentence, and then they immediately rearrested him and charged him with 28 counts of first-degree murder, child exploitation as well as multiple counts of sexual crimes and fraud. kansas v daniel perez was heading to the court. as witnesses filed into the courtroom, the investigators wondered if their star witness emily, perhaps still so vulnerable, would hold up when she saw the man she knew as lou castro sitting before her. >> how much guts, how much courage did this young woman have? >> i can't imagine what it took for her to get to that point. >> and now she's gonna take him on? >> yes. coming up, despite all of
the evidence, at least one part of this case may not be a slam dunk. when "dateline" tints. ...in boomer face masks. certified 99.99% antimicrobial and helps block fine particles, repel moist droplets, and kill bacteria... protecting both you... and others. get the best protection for you. nano-silver face masks. cvs stores & cvs.com. feeling sluggish or weighed down? it could be a sign that your digestive system isn't working at its best. taking metamucil everyday can help. metamucil psyllium fiber gels to trap and remove the waste that weighs you down. it also helps lower cholesterol and slow sugar absorption to promote healthy blood sugar levels. so you can feel lighter and more energetic. metamucil. support your daily digestive health. try new metamucil fiber gummies
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>> reporter: at sedgwick county district court in wichita, kansas. >> you must determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. >> reporter: daniel perez, aka lou castro, went on trial. he was charged with the first-degree murder of trish hughes. with sexual crimes including child exploitation, and fraud. eventually, twenty-eight counts in all. there were no charges in any of the other mysterious deaths. emily and sara would both testify, at the time not wanting to make public their identities, and face down the accused who'd controlled them both for so many years. >> reporter: i can't imagine how antsy you must have been walking into that courtroom. >> right. >> reporter: because, you know, the case really depends on you. >> right. all i could think about was, "how are they going to believe me? you know, this is such a crazy story. what if they don't believe me?" >> "the state, mr. bennett and i, will ask you hold him
responsible and find him guilty." >> reporter: district attorney marc bennett and assistant d.a. kim parker prosecuted this sprawling case. >> reporter: were you worried about even explaining this thing to a jury about what it was all about? >> sure. we had facts from across several states. facts that involved a multitude of victims and witnesses. >> reporter: this was like an imax movie. and you went with that epic version of the daniel perez story. why did you do that? >> you can't understand it otherwise. if you can't tell the whole story, the jury would be lost. >> reporter: the prosecution had won a key ruling before trial when judge joseph bribiesca allowed evidence from beyond kansas to be entered. so criminal accusations that goodwyn, snyder and sullivan had uncovered from texas through the midwest would be heard by the jury. >> an individual by the name of patricia hughes had died. >> reporter: on the big one, the murder charge: the das alleged that even though trish hughes might have been a willing
participant in her own death, it was nonetheless perez who held her head under water. >> the primary distinction between homicide and suicide is that suicide is at your own hand, and literally in this case, homicide, the hand of another. his hand was necessary to complete this act. >> reporter: there was circumstantial evidence presented to prove the charge and the star testimony of only one witness, emily, 11 years old at the time of trish's death. >> reporter: was this the weakest part of the case, the one you really had to work the most on? >> this was the only count that had the testimony of one individual. so yes, it was the -- the most difficult to prove. >> i kept thinking, "nobody is going to really think that it's as bad as it was. no one's going to think that he should serve life in prison." >> reporter: beyond emily's account, the prosecution put on an expert witness to testify to the small bruises seen on the top of trish's head, consistent with finger pressure, he said. likewise, the broken hair clip
found on the pool bottom got there not because trish stumbled but because someone pressed on the top of her head as she was held underwater. moving on. the next big charge, the exploitation of a child, carried a life sentence. this was the incident in which sara accused perez of forcing her to video tape a young girl as she got undressed. >> reporter: how did it feel to see him in court, right there? >> it was terrifying. i always felt like he was gonna jump across the table and get me. >> reporter: even then? >> uh-huh. >> reporter: the das alleged perez had ordered sara to take videos of the child at least twice. >> we found all this video on the computers in -- in tennessee. >> reporter: among the other sex-crime charges, sara and emily and one other witness testified about the same sexual assault that took place one evening. >> all three independently described that this event happened. so right off the bat, that was important. >> it was surreal and terrifying
to sit before 12 people that i didn't know and tell them all of these terrible things in terribly, graphic detail that had happened when i was 10. >> reporter: and there were more witnesses, another four young women from three states, alleged victims unaware of one another, agreeing that lou castro claimed malevolent angels were controlling him as he assaulted them sexually. >> reporter: so the m.o. of -- >> yes. >> reporter: attacking his victims was similar. >> they didn't know each other. >> thousands of miles apart. >> and their story is essentially the same. >> reporter: but it was the fraud charges that revealed the big picture of what daniel perez and angels landing were ultimately all about. you didn't have to go very far down the paper trail before you realized that perez signed nothing. the car loans? the mortgage applications? all filled out by his followers. the prosecutors said he manipulated the family members into using their own names to buy all that real estate and the lavish toys. and it got worse.
it turned out that trish, mona, and lindsey who died in the plane crash, brian hughes, the mechanic who was killed under a collapsed vehicle, and emily's and sara's mother who'd died in a car crash, all had two things in common. daniel perez had predicted each of their deaths and each had juicy life insurance policies. payouts totaling $4.2 million were made to commune members perez controlled. >> reporter: and it seemed, whenever the coffers were running low, someone would die, and there would be a big insurance payoff. was it that, bold faced a pattern, marc? >> oh, absolutely. yeah. i mean the, get down into the less than $10,000 in the account, sometimes less than $5,000, and then that's around the time somebody was gonna die. >> reporter: and with that explanation, the d.a.s summed up their case against 55-year-old daniel perez. >> it's a story of domination, control and manipulation. of the most vulnerable. it spans 15 years, multiple
victims, multiple deaths, multiple life insurance policies, and he moves through several states so that he can satisfy his own sexual appetite. >> "we do call daniel perez." >> reporter: daniel perez was about to take the stand and tell the court that it had all been a big misunderstanding. next, you'll hear him speak directly to us. >> coming up -- mr. perez, in recent weeks i have heard you described as cult leader, child rapist. who are you? when "dateline" continues.
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defense. this time in his real name. >> daniel perez. >> reporter: perez told the court that everything about his story had been invented by the prosecution. there were no angels, no demons, no sexual crimes, no insurance fraud, and certainly no murder. perez recently agreed to sit down with "dateline" and we went over the points of his defense. mr. perez, in recent weeks i have heard you described as cult leader, child rapist, someone that's very good to have off the streets. who are you? >> i, i'm, i'm -- [ laughter ] i'm no one in particular. i'm just, i'm just me. >> reporter: do you think you can see into the future? are you a prophet, a seer? >> no, sir. >> reporter: why are you telling people you can? >> i never told them anything. >> reporter: who are your angel alter egos? are they still around? the good angel, the mean angel, the angel of death? >> there's no such thing. and they weren't alter egos. if i was having sex with somebody i don't want anybody else calling me by my name. so you'd call me anything you wanna call me, just don't call me lou. and that's what they chose and that's what they did.
>> reporter: explaining his wealth, he says after being charged with sex crimes in the mid-90s, he left texas not because he was fleeing the authorities, but because he was on an illicit job, something he never revealed to investigators or in court. >> i was just a mule. i was just moving money. that's it. i delivered money and i got paid for it. >> reporter is this illegal money -- >> yes, sir. >> reporter: you still got the money? >> yes, sir. >> reporter: what are you worth? what do you think? >> i don't know. >> reporter: half a million? >> probably close to. >> reporter: as for the alleged murder of trish hughes in the swimming pool, did he sit emily and trish at a table and predict trish's death? did you tell her her time had come? did you tell little emily that trisha's time had come? >> no. no. >> reporter: and have that little girl set up an alibi for you to be out at the car dealership and -- >> no sir. >> reporter: so you're saying they made up all that stuff about trisha in the pool? >> no, i was not there. i was at davis moore chevrolet. >> reporter: well, there's no question you were at the at the car dealership later on.
key question, it wasn't your hand on trisha hughes' head pushing her beneath the water, killing her? >> nobody killed patricia hughes. >> reporter: here's the thing. when, when investigators look at you, i mean what they're telling is the court that bad things happen to people that know you, but there's a big infusion of insurance money in. let's go back to the plane incident. did you rig that plane to crash and kill those three people? >> no, sir. >> reporter: years go by and then it's trisha's time in the pool. a few more years go by and it's brian, the husband, trapped underneath the car. >> yes, he passed away in south dakota. >> reporter: passed away. did you have anything to do with the -- >> no, sir. >> reporter: -- death of brian hughes? >> no, sir. >> reporter: did you play mind games with jennifer to make her drive into that truck? >> no, sir. i had nothing to do with anyone's death. >> reporter: what about the instructions he allegedly gave
sara with the video camera? you didn't order somebody to take these obscene naked pictures of this little girl? >> no. they found the pictures and the videos on her computer not mine. has anyone considered that fact? has anyone considered the fact that she is the one that was doing it? >> reporter: are you a pedophile? >> no, sir. >> reporter: do you have an appetite for little girls? >> no, sir. >> reporter: so raping the 11-year-old never happened? >> no. >> reporter: that's the allegation. >> it is, but i'm not. >> reporter: that -- the thing that you get up for in the morning is to drive your flashy cars around and look forward to raping a young girl. that's what you're about. >> reporter: sara says that you raped her hundreds of times. >> no. >> reporter: hundreds. >> no. >> reporter: that's what she testifies to in court. >> yes, she did. yes, she did. >> reporter: that makes you a monster? >> yes, it would. it would make anyone a monster. >> reporter: so what are you saying? you didn't do it? >> no. no. they were of age and they were of willing and consent.
we were just -- just having fun. >> reporter: the stories that come out from these people that used to be in your family is that you were manipulating them, you were gonna go kill their father. they felt absolutely terrorized by you. >> and one of them was dating a police officer. we have police officers, law enforcement that hang out at the ranch for at least eight years. it's not logical. i mean how are you gonna sit there and be raping an individual and that individual's not gonna run to a police officer that's standing right there? and go say, "hey, listen, this is taking place," you know? >> reporter: the prosecution is gonna put together a story that you are a very unlucky guy with all of these people around you dying every few years and a lot of money coming into the family. how do you explain that kind of pattern, that circumstantial pattern they say is your criminal enterprise? >> i mean i can't explain -- i -- i can't explain it. >> reporter: were you a cult leader? >> no. there was no commune. there was no cult. >> reporter: and that's in essence what daniel perez told the jury. the state had it all wrong, top to bottom. the jury got the case and retired to deliberate. in about three hours it was back with a verdict. judge joseph bribiesca read it to the court. >> count 1, guilty of murder in the first degree.
>> reporter: daniel perez was found guilty on all 28 counts. and the following month, he was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the first-degree murder of trish hughes, and for the exploitation of a child. >> the evidence conclusively shows that mr. perez used people as mere objects. >> reporter: he received another 33 years for the other charges. the 55-year-old won't be eligible for parole for more than 80 years. >> reporter: those who feel the pain of loss speculate perez might have been involved in the other deaths, like the car crash in which emily's and sara's mom died. do you think there's more to it than a simple road accident, sara? >> probably. >> reporter: or that plane crash in which cody's mom and sister were lost? perez was a plane mechanic in the navy. >> he did it. some way, somehow, he found a way to alter the aircraft. >> reporter: you believe? >> in my heart, i do.
>> reporter: you don't have any evidence to say that? >> i can't prove anything. >> his heart goes out to emily and sarah. >> reporter: so who is daniel perez? >> well, he used so many different stories that it's kind of hard to piece them together. >> reporter: he's just a guy from south texas? >> right. >> reporter: telling stories. >> right. >> reporter: for what reason? >> he liked it. he realized that if he could find a way to generate capital without having to work, he could have access to whatever sort of things his heart desired, the things including me and my sister. >> in the end it was tenacity and old-fashioned doggedness
that took him down. i wouldn't have my life back if it wasn't for them. it is amazing what they have given me. >> the last time we sat down with sara and emily, they were trying to move on but still reflecting. >> your mother knew nothing about any of this? >> now looking back, she had to have known. >> you'd think. >> but she must have lost her mind. there's no way that my mom would allow that to happen to her children. >> reporter: the sisters are now closer and closer to their dad
too who was anguished when he heard his daughters' stories for the first time. >> there are many, many times that my dad could have given up on me. and he never gave up on me. >> he cried. and he wanted to know why i never told him. >> reporter: because in your mind you were protecting him. you were keeping him from the demon. >> uh-huh. >> reporter: sara and daniel ended up getting married. they have three kids and still live in wichita. emily got married too. has two children of her own. both sisters, against extraordinary odds, living maybe surprisingly normal lives. >> i think that there are people out there experiencing similar things that i did. being manipulated and being abused who are scared to leave. >> those people who might no have a goodwyn. >> there are white hats out there. there are a lot of people who care. maybe i can help somebody. at least i want to.
i think some sort of lightness has to come out from all of his darkness. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline". we're agonizing for the last two years. initially it was panic and then it turned into torment. >> i was concerned that she was hurt somewhere. i felt so helpless. kelli bordeaux was always there for others. i >> she liked to help people that needed help. >> there for her friends, there for her country. >> this was a good fit for her, the army? >> she wanted to be an officer. >> her personal life was a little more complicated. she was estranged from her husband. >> were they talking divorce?