"She was talking to (Smull) about money. It changed to infidelity. She was mad. She kept saying, 'Get out of my house,'" Jose Castillo said, recalling the argument he claimed occurred inside Rossman's 814 Dewees Place house about 6:40 a.m. Oct. 12, 2001.

Castillo testified that Smull, who is accused of killing Rossman later that day, left the house after Rossman ordered him to leave.

Characterizing himself as Rossman's friend, Castillo, 49, of Airy Street, testified he was at Rossman's house because Rossman had invited him back there after the two had been socializing at the Audubon Inn in the early morning. Castillo said Smull, who prosecutors allege was banned from the home by Rossman on Oct. 4 when she ended their engagement, showed up at Rossman's door about 6:30 a.m., and the argument ensued.

Testifying for Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Frank Genovese during the third day of Smull's murder trial, Castillo said that after Smull left the house, Rossman went to bed. Castillo said he fell asleep on Rossman's sofa, awoke about 8:40 a.m., left Rossman's home and returned to Norristown.

Castillo said that he shouted "bye" to Rossman, who was in an upstairs bedroom, and that Rossman was still alive when he left the house.

Genovese, assisted by prosecutor Gregory DiPippo, alleged Smull, who worked at SEI Investments at Oaks, returned to Rossman's home and killed her between 11:10 and 11:45 a.m. during a jealous rage. Several of Rossman's neighbors placed Smull or his Jeep Cherokee at Rossman's home during that time.

Smull, 34, formerly of the 300 block of South Fifth Avenue in Royersford, is charged with first- and third-degree murder and a weapons offense in connection with the slaying. The former pitcher, who as a senior helped Spring-Ford Area High School claim a 1988 District 1 Class AAA baseball championship, is accused of striking Rossman with a baseball bat, strangling her with an electrical cord and then slashing her throat from ear to ear with a steak knife.

Defense lawyer Frank DeSimone methodically grilled Castillo about his version of events, implying Castillo was a drug dealer who had given Rossman cocaine that morning. Testimony revealed that blood tests determined Rossman, 27, a 1992 Phoenixville Area High School graduate, had traces of cocaine in her blood at the time she died.

Several prosecution witnesses testified that they knew Castillo to be a drug dealer.

Castillo, while admitting to previously pleading guilty to a charge of possession with intent to deliver cocaine in connection with a July 2000 Conshohocken incident, adamantly denied the accusations that he was a drug dealer. Appearing nervous at times, Castillo also denied supplying Rossman with cocaine on Oct. 12.

DeSimone implied that Castillo, who is awaiting sentencing for his drug crime, is expecting to receive leniency in exchange for his testimony at Smull's trial.

DeSimone also implied that Castillo killed Rossman, referring to a fact not in contention that traces of blood were found on one of Castillo's shoes when detectives seized it a day after Rossman was killed.

"No," Castillo responded flat out when asked if he killed Rossman.

Witnesses testified that tests on Castillo's shoe revealed the blood came from two DNA sources, one being Castillo, the other an unknown source.

"Do you have any explanation for that?" DeSimone asked Castillo.

"No, not really," Castillo responded.

DeSimone also informed Castillo that investigators found a trace of blood on one of Castillo's fingers.

"Whose blood was it?" Castillo asked DeSimone.

"Yours," DeSimone responded.

"Oh, thank God," Castillo said nervously, eliciting laughter from some courtroom spectators and jurors.

Prosecutors have said Castillo had nothing to do with Rossman's death. They said all evidence points to Smull as the killer. Testimony revealed Castillo was wearing an immobilizing sling on his left arm on Oct. 12 because he injured his clavicle several weeks earlier.

But DeSimone also argued that Castillo gave conflicting statements to police. For instance, during one statement, Castillo claimed he was at Rossman's home until 11 a.m. on the day of the murder. On Wednesday, Castillo testified he left the home shortly before 9 a.m.

Prosecutors maintain they have a receipt that shows Castillo paid a phone bill at a Norristown business at 9:40 a.m.

During the trial, DeSimone has attacked the way authorities handled the investigation, specifically the fact that no one determined a time of death for Rossman. Therefore, DeSimone implied, prosecutors can't prove their allegation that Rossman was killed between 11:10 a.m. and 11:45 a.m., when they alleged Smull was at her house. Smull, prosecutors alleged, killed Rossman after becoming enraged about her ending their relationship and after finding Rossman with Castillo.

At one point during the investigation, Smull told authorities that when he went to Rossman's home at 6:40 a.m., he saw a man named Jose at the house and cocaine on a dining room table. Police testified previously that forensic tests found no residue of cocaine on that table.

If convicted of first-degree murder, an intentional killing, Smull could face life in prison. A third-degree murder conviction carries a maximum of 20 to 40 years in prison.

comments powered by Disqus