HOUSTON — The body of a 1999 Grapeland High School graduate living in Houston, who had been missing for more than a week has been found in Odessa, after the woman’s ex-boyfriend confessed to her murder.
Houston police said in a statement Monday that 37-year-old computer technician Mark Augustin Castellano was facing a murder charge in the death of 31-year-old Michelle Leigh Chaffin Warner.
According to the Associated Press, Houston Det. Fil Waters said Castellano initially told investigators that Warner had run out on him and their 3-year-old son. She was last seen Sept. 22 and reported missing by family members who said she disappeared after an argument with Castellano.
Police say Castellano told investigators Sunday that he drove their 3-year-old son to Odessa in West Texas before returning to retrieve the body from her apartment. Investigators said he told them he drove back to the Midland-Odessa area and took her body to an oil field.
Castellano, who was staying with his son at his parents’ home in Odessa, had kept in contact with police and agreed to return to Houston on Sunday to speak with investigators. During a two-hour interview, he told investigators he killed Warner after an argument in their apartment in which he grabbed her by the throat and apparently snapped her neck, Waters said.
Waters said Castellano also indicated he had taped an interview for the “Dr. Phil” show on Friday.
“I thought he was kidding, but it was the real deal,” Waters said. “He talks to Dr. Phil, provides Dr. Phil as I understand it, with the same information he’s been providing everyone else.”
In a brief statement, Stacey Luchs, a spokeswoman for the “Dr. Phil” show said, “Mr. Castellano sat down for an interview with Dr. Phil in Texas just before his confession to law enforcement, late last week. Dr. Phil also conducted an interview with Ms. Warner’s family for this show, which is currently scheduled to air on Thursday.”
The statement did not say what Castellano talked about during his interview.
He was scheduled to have his initial court appearance on Tuesday. Court records did not list an attorney for him.
Waters said Castellano told investigators his son was in the apartment when he killed Warner but did not witness the slaying.
Afterwards, Castellano drove his son to this parents’ home before returning to Houston for Warner’s body, the detective said. He put it in a plastic container, placed that in Warner’s car and then drove back to Odessa.
“He spends a day and a half trying to figure out what he is going to do with Michelle. She, in the meantime, is in the backseat of the car, which is parked at his parents’ house,” Waters said. He added that Castellano’s parents didn’t know Warner’s body was in the car outside their home.
Eventually, Castellano decided to take the body to nearby Midland, where he dumped it in a ditch in an oil field, covering it with some dirt.
“His comment was, ‘I didn’t really try to hide her. I’m surprised you all haven’t found her already,’” Waters said.
Odessa police and FBI agents found the body. An autopsy is pending to confirm Warner’s identity and determine the cause of death.
“Had he not confessed, we would still be stuck,” Waters said. “His timeline was plausible. We had no physical evidence. We had our suspicions.”
The couple had a history of fighting, he said.
Services for Warner will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Felders Chapel Assembly of God in Grapeland with burial following at Guiceland Cemetery under the direction of Bailey & Foster. Condolence calls will be received from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Bailey & Foster Chapel, Grapeland. To view online, leave condolences or sign guestbook go to www.baileyandfosterfuneralhome.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.