For Immediate Release
Reno, Nevada. Feb. 3, 2015. A Washoe County jury sentenced Shawn Russell Harte to prison for life without the possibility of parole for the October 1997 murder of Reno cab driver and father, John Castro, Jr.
In October 1997, Shawn Russell Harte, of Fallon, and two co-defendants arranged for a cab to drive them from Neil Road to Cold Springs. Upon a pre-determined signal, Harte shot the cab driver, John Castro, Jr., once in the back of the head with a .22 caliber pistol and then stole Castro’s belongings, which included $89. Castro left behind his family, including a two-month old son, who is now 17.
In March 1999, a jury found all three defendants guilty of the crime of Murder of the First Degree and sentenced Harte to death. A subsequent and unrelated Nevada Supreme Court decision later required a reversal of Harte’s sentence and removal of the death penalty option, though his conviction was upheld. Under Nevada law, because Harte was convicted of murder of the first degree, a new jury had to be empaneled to determine the sentence. The jury decided between imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole, life with the possibility of parole after 20 years, and a term of 50 years with eligibility for parole after 20 years.
During the week-long penalty hearing, the jury heard evidence concerning the murder and also of another shooting which occurred just two weeks prior south of Fallon on US95, where Harte and his two co-defendants conspired to disable a random passing vehicle and rob the driver and any passengers. As a vehicle passed, Harte opened fire within an assault-style rifle and struck the vehicle multiple times. The driver and passenger miraculously escaped without injury. The jury also heard from the Castro family, who attended the entire hearing. In response to a letter authored by Harte in 1998, which referred to the murder as “Just another chore, like taking out the trash,” Castro’s brother looked directly at Harte and emotionally countered that his brother “was not trash.”
After deliberating, the jury unanimously sentenced Harte to imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole. District Court Judge Connie Steinheimer also sentenced Harte to an additional consecutive life term for Harte’s use of a deadly weapon in Castro’s murder.
Any questions should be addressed to Deputy District Attorneys, Zach Young or Matt Lee, at the District Attorney’s Office at 328-3200.