Castle gets 18 months, allegedly slits wrist

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 3, 2003

Former Ironton businessman Garry Castle sliced his wrists in a Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas courtroom Thursday after receiving the maximum sentence for burning his business, The Shake Shoppe.

Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr. said Castle was sentenced to 18 months in prison and given the maximum fine of $5,000 by visiting Judge Fred W. Crow III of Meigs County. Castle's defense requested his sentence be stayed pending an appeal. The sentence was executed Thursday, but if Castle posts $300,000 cash bond, and the appeal is filed, he could be released from custody. Castle's attorney, K. Robert Toy of Athens has already prepared an appeal, Collier said.

Collier said that some time after he had already exited the courtroom, Castle cut his wrist. Collier declined to speculate as to why Castle did this.

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Jack Dennin, chief constable at the Lawrence County Courthouse, said Castle had used a razor blade to cut his wrist. Dennin said Castle was thoroughly scanned when he entered the courthouse, and he did not know how Castle got the razor blade inside. Shortly after the incident, Dennin said he would contact the security equipment's manufacturer to find out how this could have happened.

Lawrence County Court of Commons Pleas Judge Richard Walton said Castle had cut both wrists. Castle was transported to Southern Ohio Medical Center after the incident. While at the hospital, he was in police custody under guard, Collier said.

A spokesman for Southern Ohio Medical Center said Castle was treated and released. Castle was taken to the Lawrence County Jail when he was released. Jail officials said Castle was under suicide watch at the jail Friday morning.

Under suicide watch, Castle has all the other inmates' rights, but his cell is monitored 24 hours a day by camera, and an officer will check on him every 10 minutes. He is not permitted to have any shaving utensils, and if his behavior indicates that he will cause himself harm, he may be restrained. When he is checked every 10 minutes, his wounds are also checked to see if he needs first aid or any other form of medical treatment. Shawnee Mental Health has been notified of Castle's condition and will be available if he needs anyone to speak with him.

So far, Castle's behavior has not shown that he will cause himself harm, jail officials said.Castle will remain in jail until being transported to prison, but the possibility exists for him to be sent to a psychiatric facility because of the courtroom incident, Collier said.

Castle could possibly face more charges because of the courthouse incident, Collier said. Information about the incident will have to be reviewed first.

Walton declined to comment as to how Castle may have got the razor blade past security checkpoints. He said that the security equipment was working as it should have been, and the security at the Lawrence County Courthouse is as good, if not better than what it is at the Ohio State Supreme Court. However, not all security systems are foolproof, he said. As far as how security will be in the future, Walton said the courthouse will not have any "knee-jerk" reactions at this time.

On May 21, Castle, 50, pleaded guilty to charge of fourth-degree felony arson. In exchange for that guilty plea, the original charge of aggravated arson and fraud and criminal damaging charges for which he was later indicted, were dismissed.

Castle admitted he set fire to the restaurant in the early morning hours of March 28, 2002. He first admitted guilt to his attorney and then to authorities in June 2002. His first trial in February 2003 on his original charge of aggravated arson ended in a hung jury.

In the sentencing phase, Collier said he argued that Castle's crime was premeditated and an egregious act of criminal wrongdoing. He also said that members of the Ironton Fire Department were put in harm's way, and those firefighters could have suffered physical injury or have been killed. As president of his company, the ELK Corporation, Collier said, he caused the company economic harm and violated trust. Damages to the business, Collier said, exceeded $100,000. Collier said he also presented impact statements from the Ironton Fire Department and Rich Mountain of Scherer-Mountain Insurance.

Collier said the judge agreed with his arguments and rejected Toy's.

According to Toy's sentencing memorandum, Castle not only admitted his crime, but showed remorse for what he had done. The document states that Castle had also written a statement admitting his involvement which he had intended to take to a local newspaper and expressed remorse for what he had done. The sentencing memorandum also states that Castle had not been convicted of any crime in the past, did harm to his own property, and had made a payment of full restitution on July 2, 2002. A copy of a check written to Westfield Insurance Company for $6,208.54 was attached.

Toy's memorandum also states that if any economic harm was done, it was to Castle himself. It also states that he was under emotional distress at the time the crime occurred.

The defense argued for community controlled sanctions rather than a prison term or residential sanctions. If Castle had not confessed, there would have been no successful prosecution in this case. The court imposing another type of sentence besides a community controlled one could deter others from coming forward and admitting misconduct, according to the memorandum.

The defense sentencing memorandum also includes victim impact statements from Castle's wife, son, and various other people, as well as a statement from Castle himself. In this statement, titled "A Personal Apology to the Community," Castle admitted to setting fire to his business.

"Those of you who know me would say that I could not do such a thing, and I agree that I couldn't, but I did," Castle wrote. "I have searched my soul for the reason why, and I have no answers. I am not claiming to know how one's mind works and if it could have been altered by events that were taking place in the days prior to March 28. The anger, depression and personal conflicts brought on by these events could have triggered something I can't explain. My body carried out the act, but I don't believe my rational mind was present."

"When I realized what I had done, I lied to the authorities, I lied to my family, I lied to my friends, but I couldn't lie to God. I knew I would have to turn myself in but was afraid and kept living a lie one day at a time. When I received insurance papers from my insurance company to file a claim, I knew I could not do that and must start making restitution for all the cost I have caused."

Castle then apologized to the Ironton fire and police departments, State Fire Marshal's office, Westfield Insurance Company, his wife, mother, children, relatives, friends and employees.

"I am a man who has done wrong but now take a step of faith with God at my side and to ask Him and the authorities to have mercy on me for what I have done," Castle wrote in the conclusion.