DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Maria and John Castillo’s life hasn’t been the same since May 7, when their only child, Kendrick Castillo, 18, was shot and killed inside his own school just a week before graduation. As a way to cope, the couple has been finding ways to hold on to Kendrick’s memory, and make a statement.
The two drive Kendrick’s Jeep as often as it’s running well. They say it gives them comfort to be in his car.
“It feels like he’s next to me. I can smell him in there,” Kendrick’s mother, Maria, said, tears in her eyes.
“When we get out of his Jeep and we walk away, he’s with us. When we come out, he’s waiting for us, that’s what this Jeep represents,” Kendrick’s father, John, said.
The two also write messages on the Jeep’s windows. They change the messages out regularly to share their feelings to the community. They also put up different cardboard posters in the windshield when they park the Jeep.
This week, the posters carry pointed messages about one of the suspects in the shooting, 16-year-old Alec McKinney. A reverse transfer hearing has been underway the last week to determine whether or not he should be tried as an adult. By calling counselors and McKinney’s own mother as witnesses, his defense team has tried to paint a picture that McKinney struggled with mental health problems as a result of a growing up in a troubled household.
But, the prosecution has called witnesses to discredit that stance. The Castillo family doesn’t buy it either, and has been driving Kendrick’s Jeep to the court house.
“Juveniles that commit acts of terror should be prosecuted as an adult,” one of the posters on the Jeep read Monday. “Bad parenting is not an excuse for domestic terrorism and murder.”
“What we wrote on there, is how I feel,” said Maria. “I want them to read that, that’s the way I feel.”
On another window, his parents wrote, “how many days before the next attack?”
John said he feels it’s important for him to call attention to the problem of school shootings, and to continue to fight for justice in his son’s death.
“We hope we can change things around the country so these things don’t keep happening,” John said. “So someone who thinks it’s funny and it doesn’t have an effect, that it changes that thought and it curtails it.”
On Saturday there will be a Jeep and tap event benefiting the Notre Dame Catholic School Scholarship Fund in Kendrick’s honor at Max Taps brewery in Highlands Ranch from 1 to 8 p.m. Kendrick’s Jeep will be there, and folks are encouraged to bring their Jeeps, too.
With his vehicle, they hope their son’s memory will live on.
“He was the best kid,” John said. “He was just loving to everyone.”