HOUSTON - A man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend in Houston and then driving hundreds of miles to dump her body in a West Texas oil field taped an interview about the case with the "Dr. Phil" show two days before confessing to investigators, police said Monday.
Mark Augustin Castellano, a 37-year-old computer technician, has been charged with murder in the Sept. 22 death of 31-year-old Michelle Warner.
Houston Det. Fil Waters said Castellano initially told investigators that Warner had run out on him and their 3-year-old son. Her family later reported her missing to police.
Castellano, who was staying with his son at his parents' home in Odesa in West Texas, had kept in contact with police and agreed to return to Houston on Sunday to speak with investigators. During a two-hour interview, Castellano told investigators he killed Warner after an argument in their apartment in which he grabbed her by the throat and apparently snapped her neck, Waters said.
Waters said Castellano also indicated he had taped an interview for the "Dr. Phil" show on Friday.
"I thought he was kidding, but it was the real deal," Waters said. "He talks to Dr. Phil, provides Dr. Phil as I understand it, with the same information he's been providing everyone else."
In a brief statement, Stacey Luchs, a spokeswoman for the "Dr. Phil" show said, "Mr. Castellano sat down for an interview with Dr. Phil in Texas just before his confession to law enforcement, late last week. Dr. Phil also conducted an interview with Ms. Warner's family for this show, which is currently scheduled to air on Thursday."
The statement did not say what Castellano talked about during his interview.
He is scheduled to have his initial court appearance on Tuesday. Court records did not list an attorney for him.
Waters said Castellano told investigators his son was in the apartment when he killed Warner but did not witness the slaying. Afterwards, Castellano drove his son to this parents' home before returning to Houston for Warner's body, the detective said. He put it in a plastic container, placed that in Warner's car and then drove back to Odesa.
"He spends a day and a half trying to figure out what he is going to do with Michelle. She, in the meantime, is in the backseat of the car, which is parked at his parents' house," Waters said. He added that Castellano's parents didn't know Warner's body was in the car outside their home.
Eventually, Castellano decided to take the body to nearby Midland, where he dumped it in a ditch in an oil field, covering it with some dirt.
"His comment was, 'I didn't really try to hide her. I'm surprised you all haven't found her already,'" Waters said.
Odesa police and FBI agents found the body. An autopsy is pending to confirm Warner's identity and determine the cause of death.
"Had he not confessed, we would still be stuck," Waters said. "His timeline was plausible. We had no physical evidence. We had our suspicions."
The couple had a history of fighting, he said.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/juanlozano70.