Arrest of 82-year-old accused of sexual assault on child in Putnam County leads deputies to press for other victims

The recent arrest of an 82-year-old man facing a capital sexual assault on children charge in Putnam County has led to the search for more potential victims.

Gilbert Del Castillo-Espana was caught on bodycam video resisting Putnam County deputies after they arrived at his home to arrest him.

The alleged victim is under the age of 12 years old and the child of parents who are undocumented immigrants. According to investigators, Castillo-Espana befriended the parents long before the child was born, and the parents trusted Castillo-Espana to be around the child because he was helping the parents out.

But months before the spring of 2023, the parents noticed something was wrong with their child.

“There were no marks. The child did not initially come forward and say anything, but the parents noticed the child was becoming withdrawn. the child started gaining a lot of weight. The child isolated itself from everybody,” Col. Joe Wells with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said.

The parents were afraid to report their suspicions to authorities out of fear of being deported, deputies said.

“They sought the advice of a faith leader. From there the faith leader worked with them and encouraged them to report it,” Wells said.

The investigation began as suspected physical abuse but as detectives dug deeper, they realized “this is sexual abuse, and it was sexual battery on” a young child.

Before his retirement in 2015, Castillo-Espana worked with the Putnam County School District to help migrant families who were new to the area.

At one point, he was the coordinator for the district’s English as a Second Language or ESOL program. Investigators said although he didn’t work directly with children in the classroom, Castillo-Espana had access to migrant children or children born in Putnam County.

It took a long time for detectives and child protection teams to get the information to confirm a sex crime allegedly happened. But detectives said once they were able to confirm the child had been sexually abused, they began to suspect the possibility of other victims who may also have migrant parents who are too afraid to come forward to authorities.

This is why detectives are pleading for those families to come forward if they have information about suspected abuse or similar complaints.

“You are safe to report this. We don’t ask about your resident status. You don’t need a photo ID to report a crime. That is not important to us. What’s important is that you were in our jurisdiction at the time the crime occurred,” Wells said. “We do encourage others who have had contact with this suspect and if you’re suspicious, reach out to us.”

Under a new law that took effect last year, Castillo-Espana is eligible to receive the death penalty if convicted since his sexual battery charge is a capital felony.

He is held without bond.

Putnam County School District issued this statement on the matter:

“Our number one priority is always the safety of our students. We fully support Sheriff DeLoach and his team and will share any information needed to assist them with the investigation. This former employee has not been with the District since 2015 when he retired. While with the District, he performed his duties effectively. It is very disheartening to hear this news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victim and the victim’s family. We encourage anyone who may have something to share related to this investigation to contact the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office.”

The Sheriff’s Office is sending out information in both English and Spanish to see if other victims and their families might be willing to come forward.

If you have information about other potential victims, contact the sheriff’s office at 386-329-0800.

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