Zory Castro says the first she heard about the death of her granddaughter Kayla Castro was a post she saw on Facebook.
“It said, ‘R.I.P. Kayla,’ and I thought it was some kind of joke,” the grandmother recalled.
That was Saturday night. Earlier her daughter Zoelvy, Kayla’s mother, had rushed from the house saying only that she had to go.
Kayla, a 16-year-old Hardaway High School sophomore, the victim of a shotgun blast to the chest, was pronounced dead at 9:40 p.m. Saturday at 4944 Wellborn Drive, where police said the shooting happened in a bedroom about 9 p.m.
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Kayla’s boyfriend, Benjamin Brantley, 18, was charged with her murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of a sawed-off shotgun. Police say Brantley told them the shooting was an accident.
Now in the Muscogee County Jail, he will be in Columbus Recorder’s Court Tuesday at 9 a.m.
It’s not the first time Brantley has been in trouble with the law.
According to state court records, Brantley on March 31, 2011, was accused of possession of marijuana and three traffic offenses: no state license, no insurance and having a revoked tag.
Chief Assistant Solicitor General Suzanne Goddard said Brantley was in a deferment program in which he was to complete 80 hours of community service and pass random drug tests over three months. If he completed that, his drug charge would have been shelved and Brantley then would have pleaded guilty only to the traffic offenses. But Brantley finished only 40 hours of community service before failing a drug test. The drug and traffic charges still are pending.
Amanda Cochran, 15, a Columbus High student, considered Kayla her best friend, their friendship dating back to when they were toddlers. The two watched movies together, and Kayla used to take trips to the beach and mountains with Amanda.
“She was just always happy,” Amanda said. “She made you feel better to be around her.”
She said sometimes Kayla would hang out with the wrong crowd, people who did not want to do what’s right, but Kayla always acted properly.
“I think she was a good influence on those people,” Amanda said.
As for Brantley, Amanda said he and Kayla were very close.
Zory Castro said she didn’t know Brantley. “I can’t believe she was friends with this guy,” Castro said. “You don’t really know what children are going to do when they walk out the door.”
The last time she saw her granddaughter was Friday. Kayla was cleaning her room and doing laundry. She told her grandmother she was going out with friends.
Castro’s husband Evans Castro, a contractor working in Saudi Arabia, will have a 21-hour flight home for his granddaughter’s funeral.
“When he heard the news he could not talk on the phone,” she said,
Her daughter, granddaughter and grandson, Evans, 12, a student at Waddell Elementary, have been staying with her for about six months.
Castro said Kayla was often shy, and very smart. “We just got her last grades, A’s and B’s,” she said.
Kayla would sit with her grandmother for hours and watch television shows about crime-scene investigations such as “CSI.” The grandmother said Kayla wanted to attend Auburn University and study forensics.
Kayla learned to crochet at an early age and loved to create artwork on a computer, the grandmother said. She really loved to swim.
She also enjoyed being with friends and trying different makeup and hairstyles. Her mother is a hairstylist, and Kayla loved to spend time around the shop where her mother worked.
The family has heard from many friends since Kayla’s death. The grandmother said she received 10 calls from Puerto Rico, where she is from. Locally Kayla’s friends had a memorial service and delivered a poster with messages to the family.
“I am a strong woman, but this is hard,” Castro said.
She and her husband are building a home in Puerto Rico. “I don’t know if we can go. I could not leave my daughter now,” she said.
Elsa Lopez of Columbus is a close family friend that Kayla used to call “Auntie.”
“Kayla was the granddaughter I never had. She was beautiful outside and inside. What happened to her, well, I’m still in shock,” she said. “I want justice.”