Police: Dead child's parents on drugs

CERES -- The parents arrested after the shooting death of their 2-year-old daughter were under the influence of drugs at the time, police said Thursday.

Cruzita Arellano, 2, accidentally shot herself in the chest Wednesday morning, according to her parents, Felix Are-llano, 26, and Christina Castrillo, 24.

"They were both high," Sgt. Allen McKay said. "We won't have the blood test results for 10 to 12 days, but it's our opinion as police officers that they were under the influence."

He did not say what drug police believe the couple used. Investigators found methamphetamine in their home.

The couple, who are not married, are scheduled to be arraigned at the Stanislaus County Courthouse at 1:30 p.m. today on charges of child endangerment. Arellano also faces charges of manslaughter, unlawful possession of a gun and unlawfully altering the gun's identification information.

Police were called to their southeast Ceres house about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. The parents said they were asleep on a couch in the living room when the gun went off, McKay said.

While Castrillo was combative right after the shooting, she and Arellano cooperated with police once they were in custody, McKay said.

Castrillo's family members said they were astonished by news of Cruzita's death and the media coverage of it. They are trying to figure out what happened.

"I don't even think she should be in jail," Castrillo's mother, Cynthia Castrillo, said. "She's dealing with the loss of her daughter, and she also has a 2½-month old. It was an accident, a terrible, terrible accident. They both knew better."

After Cruzita was pronounced dead at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, officers searched the cluttered two-bedroom home.

They found about 2 ounces of meth and a large amount of cash, three handguns, stolen items and surveillance equipment, McKay said.

Two of the guns were in an oven in the back yard; the third was in the living room. Police said they believe that gun, a .380- caliber semiautomatic pistol, killed Cruzita. Guns of that caliber usually weigh 1½ to 2 pounds, according to research of gun manufacturers' specifications.

Because Arellano is a felon, he is not allowed to possess guns or ammunition. Arellano told police he had the gun sometime Tuesday night and lost track of it.

Checking bullet's path

"He wasn't sure what he did with it," McKay said.

Her parents said Cruzita came across it while playing in the living room. The couple's 2-month-old daughter was nearby.

The bullet entered Cruzita's chest, left her body and lodged in a wall, McKay said.

Police are examining the bullet's path, fingerprinting the gun and checking evidence of gun residue to determine how the child was shot.

Cruzita's autopsy was performed Thursday. Her body should be released today, family members said.

The 2-month-old girl, Delilah, was placed with Cynthia Castrillo, but officers with Child Protective Services removed her late Wednesday to check her for exposure to meth and related chemicals, McKay said. Cynthia Castrillo said Arellano's parents are trying to get custody of the baby.

Christina Castrillo's bail was set at $35,000; Arellano's was set at $25,000. Arellano's bail amount was lower because of an error in the paperwork submitted to the court, McKay said. Arellano's bail was raised Thursday to $500,000.

Until about a week ago, Arellano was serving time for another conviction, family members said. Before her boyfriend was released, Christina Castrillo spent most of her time at her mother's house, playing with her daughters, Cynthia Castrillo said.

"I should have been more (involved). I thought he was trying to stay on track," she said.

Cynthia Castrillo said the media have unfairly portrayed the parents as careless.

"I taught my daughter better than that. She's a really good mom. I can imagine her head is just spinning," Cynthia Castrillo said in the doorway of her home. She has been trying to raise money for her daughter's bail.

Raising money for funeral

"Felix just adored his daughters," she added. "He's probably dying inside."

Cynthia Castrillo said the families do not have enough money for a proper burial. Arellano's relatives are trying to raise money for the funeral. They plan to hold a fund-raising carwash today and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day at Nicho's Custom Audio, 1627 Crows Landing Road. Anyone wanting to contribute to Cruzita's funeral also can donate to an account in her name at any Bank of America branch.

There will be a candlelight vigil at 7:30 tonight at the house, 3418 Ninth St., Ceres.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.

Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at ehightower@modbee.com or 578-2382.

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