True Crime Tuesdays – “What a Great Idea for a Novel!”

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Some criminals just stay with you. The first criminal I was introduced to was Jeffrey Dahmer. I don’t remember what I was watching but my father told me all about him. I think I was about 12 at the time. His acts were heinous. Killing young men, raping them and having them for dinner. I always wondered if Silence of the Lambs was based on him. Even at that tender age, instead of this disgusting me, Dahmer fascinated me. He has stuck with me since.

And so has Maryann Castorena.

No, she is not anything like Jeffrey Dahmer, but her stupidity is so remarkable I can’t stop thinking about her. I first saw her on Snapped, Season 17, Episode 3. I think my mind was a ball of confusion after the episode was over. I am not sure what she was thinking with her defense, but like I stated, her story (oh, what a story it is!) has adhered itself to some part of my brain, leeching on and not letting go.

Maryann met and started dating a man named Jose Hernandez back in 2005. Love was in the air that they moved in together. At the heart of this story is greed (isn’t it always?!). In 2012, Jose, so infatuated with Maryann, took out a $750,000 life insurance policy. He took this policy out at the insurance company Maryann worked at (convenient, right?!). At the time he put his niece as the beneficiary but question whether he could change that at a later date, say, once he had a wife and kids.

Well, of course Maryann was made aware of this policy and started to manufacture a plan to obtain Jose’s money. If only the policy were in her name already! Maryann was visiting her adult sons one day and met one of their friends, Anthony Delagarza, a member of the gang the Latin Kings. Not the best mother of the year knowing your sons are hanging out with gang members but hey, why not join in, right?! Delagarza claimed he wanted out of the Latin Kings and was working on it. He is truthful in this aspect. In December of 2012, he was officially “jumped” out or in other terms, beaten to a pulp.

But Anthony’s thug-life was not over. Maryann would make sure of that.

In early 2013, Jose had a change of heart and decided he wanted Maryann to have all his money, making her the only beneficiary of his employee stock options plan, his 401k plan, and his life insurance policy through his company. The other one stayed with his niece as the beneficiary.

Ah, it was go time for Maryann!

She started small, having Delagarza destroying the “beat up jalopy” for an insurance payout. This jalopy was a pretty new 2012 Nissan Maxima. Paying him $1,000, he blew up the car (add 1st degree arson to his list of offences). The cover story was that Maryann’s ex-husband did it for revenge. In return, Jose received $40,000 from the insurance company.

This event was so life altering to Jose, that he now changed his beneficiary on his other insurance policy leaving his niece with 60% and Maryann with 40%.

What Maryann never told Jose, was she was in love with someone else and married them July of 2013. She then returned and told Delagarza she needed a favor (seriously man, turn and run!). She wanted him to murder Jose. In return, he would get $50,000 of a 3rd life insurance policy Maryann was going to persuade Jose to take out. So in her charming nature, Maryann gets Jose to take out another $750,000 life insurance policy leaving her as the sole beneficiary.

Side note: Are you adding up the dollar signs in your head? Let’s see… $750,000+(40% of 750,000)+employee stock options, 401K and the other life insurance policy… Maryann stood to gain somewhere between $1.2 – $1.5 million!!!

Now, Jose had to die.

Late 2013, Maryann moved her husband (not Jose) to Michigan from Nevada. She then met with Delagarza several times to discuss the murder of Jose. Meanwhile, Jose now split that first insurance policy 50-50 with his niece and Maryann.

On January 5th, 2014, Delagarza went into action, borrowing a relative’s car and waiting for Jose to leave his apartment and accessing his car. At that time, Delagarza senselessly beat Jose with ball joint remover with a broken prong and left him to die in the snow. Maryann and Delagarzathen got rid of the weapon.

Okay, so why is Maryann Castorena’s murder of her ex-boyfriend so remarkable?! It isn’t necessarily the murder… it is the evidence and defense that is quite the story.

As police searched for Jose’s killer they subsequently interviewed Maryann several times especially since she stood to gain A LOT of money. In these interviews, Maryann was only so happy to give the police Delagarza’s name. Heck, if he was in prison and she wasn’t, she didn’t have to pay him the $50,000 hit fee, right?! (Because $1.2 million isn’t enough!) Well, Delagarza didn’t think twice about throwing Maryann under the bus telling them that she was the mastermind and that…

… she even wrote out the murder plan!

To coin a Yiddish term (yes, I’m Jewish)… Oy Vey!

Maryann had handwritten a note outlining the whole plan to kill Jose from hiding by his car, to beating him, every little aspect was written down. The police ate this up and started searching everywhere for this letter. Instead of burning said letter, the police found it crumpled up inside a book bag. Although I cannot seem to find an image of this letter searching on Google, Oxygen just show a glimpse of it in the Snapped episode.

So far Maryann has broken two of my rules seen in my prior post from March: “What Not To Do When Committing A Crime… The Stupidity of Criminals” . She has written out her murder plan (yes I know she is my example in this post) and she hired someone.

It is obvious that Delagarza was going away for a long time for first-degree murder. Now it was Maryann’s time for her trial. Maryann took that letter she wrote and created this whole defense on it. The defense: the letter wasn’t a murder plot, no, it was a story she heard two women discussing at a restaurant she was at and she thought it sounded like a great idea for a novel or movie!

Um… really Maryann?! Who the hell do you think is buying that defense?!

This “story” she heard and was writing was exactly the way things played out in real life with Jose’s murder.

Needless to say, the jury was not falling for this charade and Maryann is spending her days in prison sentenced to life with not possibility of parole. In the end, Maryann, was it really worth it?!


Maryann stays with me because of the letter. Her stupidity in not only writing the murder plot, but also not disposing it and then claiming it was a book idea is what boggles my mind. How do you get so absorbed in killing a human being for money that you totally miss the idea of being caught?! What goes through your mind as you plan the hit?! Do you really think you will get away with it?!

Maryann, my one advice for you… give up on your writing career.

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