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The couple moved to Los Angeles, where Gomez claimed that a strange man approached her and told her that she had been cursed and her relationship would end in three months. Gomez claimed that her relationship ended three months later. It wasn’t long after that she met Castro.
“[Castro] looked like my father,” she testified. “He would pay attention to me, invite me to eat and make me feel special. .?.?. I only wanted to be a friend to him. He was older and he was married and he had nine children in Mexico.”
In early 2005, Gomez says she found a photo of her taken while she was sleeping in Castro’s apartment. Ever more drawn to her beliefs, she became obsessed with the notion that Castro had used the photo to place a “love spell” on her. She didn’t confront him because, she insisted, “When he was younger, he put a hex on his wife so she would leave her fiancé .?.?. and marry him.”
An industry of practitioners peddling themselves aswitch doctors helped feed her paranoia. Polk says that Southern California alone has close to 500 botanicas, or religious-supply stores that support traditional folk religion and spiritual practices of Mexico and Central America. In February 2005, Gomez went to a bruja named Estrella to confirm her suspicions about Norberto Castro.
The bruja told her that a man “around 42 years old” had cast a spell on her. The brujacleansed her body with eggs and herbs and performed a fire ritual. Gomez says the bruja warned her that the “spell” against her could be broken only if Castro died — or if he broke the spell himself.
“She told me not to go back to where he was, because all cleansing would be in vain,” she said. If she did, “I would die in a car accident in the month of September.” But Gomez continued to see Castro, and says she even had sex with him for the first time. “It wasn’t that I liked him or found him attractive,” she testified. “It was something stronger than me. .?.?. It is a spell. The witchcraft stuff pulls you and pulls you toward that person.”
She decided to kill him after her car stalled on the freeway in May 2005. After all, the bruja had predicted an “accident” in which Gomez would die. Gomez says she saw the car stalling as a sign that the prediction was coming partly true. Once she made her morbid decision, she says, “I was rested and I finally could be happy.”
Last week, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury rejected her folkloric tale of witchcraft and jilted love, deliberating for less than a day to find her guilty of first-degree murder. Her lover, Mendez, picked up by the LAPD’s fugitive task force in 2006, faces trial in January.
Torres was at a loss to explain why anyone would want to kill her uncle, who was generous and hard-working and loved to kick back with friends. “He was happy every day,” recalls Torres with a smile. “He liked to talk.” But in the world of love spells and witchcraft, it’s all about winning or losing. “The idea is .?.?. once you put something into action, it has to come to an end,” says Polk. For Castro, his end came too soon.