Man sentenced to 75 years in prison for murder of man whose body found in barrel

Body of Joseph Camarena found in barrel alongside rural road

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SAN ANTONIO – Prosecutors called the murder of Joseph Camarena an execution, and after two hours of deliberation, a jury sentenced Jessie Castilla to 75 years in prison.

Damian Lira said he dropped Camarena at Castilla's home on the evening of Nov. 17, 2017. Seconds later, what Lira heard will haunt him forever.

“I heard a pop noise, and that alerted me to look around, and a split second later, I heard another one,” Lira said in court while testifying in Castilla's murder trial.

Those “pops” Lira heard, prosecutor Kristina Escalona told the jury during closing arguments, were gunshots fired by Castilla.

“Jesse Castilla executed him,” Escalona said. “One shot to the back of the head and one shot to the chest.”

She said that the men met in Castilla’s garage in the 300 block of Lovett Street to discuss a debt. The following day, Camarena’s body was found in a 50-gallon barrel alongside a rural Bexar County road.

Two of Castilla’s friends tipped police after they saw human feet protruding from the barrel that they’d helped him dump.

“All of the evidence the state presented to you gets you to be able to speculate Jesse Castilla may have committed this murder,” defense attorney Suzanne Kramer told the jury during closing arguments.

“They did not prove that my client is the one that caused the death of Mr. Camarena,” defense attorney Sharon Thorn said.

After more than two hours of deliberation, the jury agreed with the prosecution that Lira's testimony and that of the couple who tipped police was enough proof to merit a conviction.

They found Castilla guilty of murder.

About the Author:

Paul Venema is a courthouse reporter for KSAT with more than 25 years experience in the role.