WORCESTER — Christina Castro was fleeing from a hit-and-run accident when she sped along Franklin Street at 70 miles per hour late Monday night and slammed into parked cars, killing her 3-year-old son and injuring two of her other children, authorities said.
None of the three children in the car was wearing a seat belt. Jayden Figueroa, the youngest of Castro’s four children, died in the wreck.
“This is not her; she loves her kids,” said Darilys Mercado, a distant relative of Castro. “We were all basically in shock.”
Castro, 27, of Worcester, was arraigned in Central District Court on Tuesday on charges of motor vehicle homicide and reckless endangerment of a child. Her lawyer entered a not-guilty plea; she is being held on $50,000 bail.
At the time of the crash, Castro was fleeing a minor accident that occurred minutes earlier in the area of Grafton Street, authorities said. She failed to stop after hitting a delivery truck, authorities said.
Three of Castro’s four children were inside her 1992 Toyota Camry at the time of the fatal crash, which occurred about 10:15 p.m. in the area of 432 Franklin St., parallel to the CSX freight yard.
Jayden and a 7-year-old boy were trapped in the car after it crossed the eastbound travel lane and crashed into a parked Honda Odyssey, police said.
After the initial impact with the Odyssey, Castro’s Toyota hit a Chrysler Town and Country, minivan, which sent the Chrysler into a parked tow truck.
The vehicles were parked at Etre’s Auto Body.
Castro was outside the vehicle with another son, 5, when emergency personnel arrived. Crews worked to extricate the 3-year-old and the 7-year-old. All three children were taken to area hospitals, police said.
The 7-year-old child remains in critical condition. In court Tuesday, prosecutors said that he is in intensive care at an area hospital and that there are concerns that he could be paralyzed. Castro’s 5-year-old son has minor injuries.
Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey T. Travers said a booster seat was in the car, but was not belted in.
Through her lawyer, Castro said she was driving the speed limit before the accident and that wet weather contributed to the crash.
Investigators came to a different conclusion after assessing the scene.
“They determined that the minimum speed of the vehicle was 70 miles per hour prior to crash or at the time of the crash,” Travers said.
Sometime before the fatal crash, Castro had allegedly rear-ended a commercial vehicle that had just made a delivery. The driver of the commercial truck told police he pulled over to exchange paperwork, but saw Castro speed off onto Interstate 290. The driver followed Castro to the next exit and tried to speak with her, but she allegedly continued to speed away and he was unable to follow her, Travers said. The driver reported the accident to police.
Police soon made a connection between the two accidents.
Defense lawyer Gregory J. White said alcohol was not a factor in the crashes.
“I’m told she doesn’t even have a speeding ticket,” he said. “She’s still in shock over the death of her 3-year-old son Jayden. She’d ask the court to release her to attend to the arrangements for her son’s funeral and also to care for her son Luis Figueroa, who was critically injured in this accident.”
Castro faces charges of motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, speeding, leaving the scene of a property damage accident, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, two counts of child restraint violation, three counts of reckless endangerment of a child, and operating a motor vehicle so as to endanger.
Castro was held on $50,000 cash bail and will return to court on April 4.
Castro’s eldest son was at the neighbor’s apartment at the time of the accident, said family friend Doris Maldonado.