BALLSTON SPA — Jurors who will decide whether a Moreau man shot and nearly killed his neighbor last fall heard audio Friday of what prosecutors contend was a threat by the shooter moments before he opened fire.
The Saratoga County jury watched a cellphone video recorded by a man who was at the home of Michael Desnoyers the October 2017 night he was shot in the back and partially paralyzed.
The video didn’t show much but slight movement in the dark, but a person could be heard saying, “I’m going to take him out” five minutes or so before a shooter returned with a semiautomatic rifle and opened fire into a garage on Laurel Road in Moreau.
The Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office is alleging that the shooter was Joey M. Castro, a 25-year-old neighbor of Desnoyers who had been drinking at the victim’s house before becoming angry, leaving and then allegedly returning with an AR-15-style rifle. Castro has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of attempted murder, assault, criminal possession of a weapon and lesser counts.
Castro’s lawyer William Montgomery, though, has been trying to deflect blame to his client’s identical twin brother Jeffrey, who was at the Desnoyers home shortly before the shooting. Jeffrey Castro has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of criminal possession of a weapon for having an illegal assault rifle at the twins’ neighboring home, but said he was not the shooter and agreed to testify against his brother. He said he did not witness the shooting, though.
Friday afternoon saw Ballston Spa resident Randy Saunders, a friend of the victim, testify about the night of the shooting, saying that the evening started out with a group hanging out and talking, but as Joey Castro and Desnoyers drank more, the conversation got testy.
“He (Castro) was being a little aggressive toward Mike and (Desnoyers’ girlfriend) Becca, saying he was not as big a man as he was,” Saunders, 20, testified. “We were trying to get him out of the house.”
When Joey Castro left, “he said he was going to get his brother and come back to fight us,” Saunders added.
He said he and Desnoyers’ stepson, Charles Miles, had gone inside the home after Joey Castro left, but then heard yelling outside that someone had a gun, and heard shots before finding Desnoyers injured on the garage floor.
The audio from the video was a bit garbled, and Saratoga County Judge James Murphy told the jury that it will be up to them to determine who said what.
Saunders testified that the man who said he was Jeffrey Castro left the Desnoyers home about a half-hour into the gathering, saying he had to work the following morning. Saunders said he could tell the difference between the two because Joey Castro was heavier, and was wearing a green Boston Celtics t-shirt.
The jury also heard Friday from State Police Investigator Robert Mower, who was part of a team that searched for forensic evidence at the homes of Desnoyers and the Castros after the shooting. He told of finding .223-caliber ammunition, the type fired by an AR-15, in the bedrooms of both Castros, as well as the trajectory of bullets fired from outside the garage. One passed through the home and lodged in a tree to the side of the house.
Montgomery highlighted the location of the shooter, pointing out he was in the dark outside the garage, and may not have been easily visible by those inside.
Testimony is to resume Monday, and Saratoga County Assistant District Attorney Alan Poremba said it will likely last through the week and into the following week.
Desnoyers has yet to testify.