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Fights, breakups preceded woman’s death in Peabody

Bonnie Page (right) translated for murder suspect Franklin Castano, who was arraigned Friday at Peabody District Court on charges related to his girlfriend’s death.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Bonnie Page (right) translated for murder suspect Franklin Castano, who was arraigned Friday at Peabody District Court on charges related to his girlfriend’s death.

PEABODY — Solanlly Paulino walked into the office at her Peabody apartment complex Wednesday and asked how to take her boyfriend’s name off their lease. They had broken up, the 23-year-old explained, and she wanted him out.

But her boyfriend, Franklin Castano, 43, did not leave. Essex County prosecutors said he shot her in the head and then walked into the Lynn police station Thursday morning and confessed.

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Castano was ordered held without bail Friday at his arraignment in Peabody District Court on charges including murder. A plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf.

Castano has a history of arrests on charges of beating and threatening Paulino, and her family and friends said he was jealous, obsessive, and controlling. One friend said Castano had assaulted and threatened to kill Paulino for breaking up with him in the past.

“This case illustrates the heart-breaking and awful reality of domestic violence,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett said in a statement. “Too often, this story of a young woman’s life cut short is repeated. The overriding concern of this office, along with police and other agencies, is to help victims break free from the cycle of violence. Ms. Paulino’s death is a terrible and tragic reminder of the work still to be done.”

According to court documents, Castano walked into the Lynn police station at about 9 a.m. Thursday and told officers he had killed his wife, though he and Paulino were not married.

Peabody police officers found Paulino’s body face-down on a love seat inside the apartment the two shared on Keys Drive, a towel over her head and a pool of blood underneath her. She apparently had a gunshot wound to her right temple, according to court documents, and possible defensive wounds on her right hand. When investigators arrived at the apartment, they found scented candles burning and incense that had burned down.

It was not yet clear whether Paulino was killed Wednesday or Thursday morning.

Castano allegedly told police that he had thrown the gun he used out the window of his car near South Congregational Church on Prospect Street, according to the documents. By Friday evening it had not been found, said a spokeswoman for the district attorney.

Castano’s lawyer said his client was tearful, but had not said he had any part in the killing. “I asked him about Ms. Paulino, and he broke down into tears,” said his lawyer, Michael Phelan. “He is very sorry about what happened; he has not admitted that he’s involved in it yet.”

Members of Castano’s family packed the first few rows on one side of the courtroom, and Paulino’s family sat on the other side. Castano did not appear to look at anyone, keeping his head lowered as he was led into the courtroom in shackles.

“I would never expect him to do this, I am so in complete shock that this happened,” Castano’s stepdaughter, Justice Garcia, 19, said in a phone call after the arraignment. “Despite all these horrific events, he was a really good dad.”

Castano had three biological children, she said, and two stepchildren, whom he raised as his own. Castano and Garcia’s mother are divorced, she said, but before Castano turned himself in to the police, he called his former wife. Garcia did not know what they talked about.

Garcia sent her condolences to Paulino’s family and said: “I’m sorry this had to happen this way. I can just imagine the pain, but both families have to be strong through the tragedy.”

Court documents show that Castano had been arrested in 2010 for assaulting his former wife and that she took out a restraining order against him.

Paulino’s family declined to comment Friday. On Thursday, they said Paulino was an aspiring model attending Salem State University full time and working as a nanny. She met Castano at a club about four or five years ago, they said, and they begged her to leave him.

Castano was arrested twice on charges of assaulting Paulino, according to court documents, but the charges against him were dismissed. Paulino was charged in one fight, but charges against her were dropped as well.

“People don’t necessarily realize that when you’re trying to leave is the most dangerous time in a relationship,” said Anthony DiPietro, executive director of Healing Abuse Working for Change, an antidomestic violence group based in Salem. “It actually increases the likelihood that things will get serious and escalate and possibly result in a homicide.”

A friend of Paulino said she witnessed a fight between the two in January 2012 that turned physical after Paulino said she wanted to break up.

The friend, who asked not to be named because Castano threatened her during the dispute, said she was with Paulino when Castano came home angry, and the two started fighting. Paulino said she was going to leave Castano, said the friend. “That’s when he pulled out one of those big knives and started swinging it around,” said the friend, referring to a machete. “They started, like, actually fighting, like fistfighting, pulling, and kicking, and all that stuff.”

Castano threatened Paulino with the machete and a butcher knife and dragged her across the floor by her hair and shirt, said the friend and a police report in which she is named as a witness. He threw Paulino’s clothing into the hallway. The friend said she called police.

The friend said Paulino broke up with Castano many times and often talked of leaving him. Once she fled to the Dominican Republic to escape the relationship, said the friend. After the 2012 fight, she moved out of the apartment they shared and got her own.

But last summer, the friend said, she saw the two back together at a cookout and at Water Country. Paulino seemed embarrassed to be seen back with him. It was the last time she saw her friend.

She was shocked that Paulino had been killed. “I honestly didn’t know that they stayed together,” said the friend. “I just, I don’t know. It’s pretty sad that’s how she died.”

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com.
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