Charges withdrawn for one in York City homicide

  • Juan Castro-Oquendo, previously charged with the homicide of Lester Cortes-Cotto, had his charges dropped Friday.
  • His brother, Jose Castro-Oquendo, remains charged in the homicide and faces trial in county court.
  • Jose Castro-Oquendo remains in York County Prison without bail.

One of two men charged in the death of a York City man will not be facing trial.

In July, Juan Castro-Oquendo, 35, of York City, and Jose "Menor" Castro-Oquendo, 31, of 948 E. Market St., Apt. 2, were charged in the homicide of 22-year-old Lester Cortes-Cotto.

The Castro-Oquendo brothers were accused of involvement in an altercation that led to the death of Cortes-Cotto in the early morning hours of July 9.

On Friday, Aug. 25, only Jose Castro-Oquendo remains charged in Cortes-Cotto's death.

During the brothers' preliminary hearing Friday afternoon, the York County District Attorney's Office withdrew charges against Juan Castro-Oquendo.

More:Two arrested in connection to York City homicide

An arrest warrant has been issued for Jose Castro-Oquendo for his alleged involvement in the homicide of 22-year-old Lester Cortes-Cotto.

Charges withdrawn: First assistant district attorney Jen Russell said during the brothers' preliminary hearing that a key witness was not able to show up to the previously scheduled hearing, and the latest hearing.

As such, the DA's office decided to withdraw charges against Juan Castro-Oquendo. Additionally, charges of conspiracy to commit homicide were withdrawn for Jose Castro-Oquendo.

Jose Castro-Oquendo faces a trial in county court on the homicide charge. His attorney, Seamus Dubbs, declined comment following the hearing.

Ronald Gross, the elder Castro-Oquendo's attorney, could not be reached for comment after Friday's hearing.

Altercation: According to charging documents filed for the two, Cortes-Cotto left a gathering in the first block of East Maple Street to purchase cigarettes at a store up the street.

Before arriving at the store, Cortes-Cotto encountered Jose Castro-Oquendo, police said.

Jose Castro-Oquendo felt  "disrespected" by a look Cortes-Cotto gave him, and there was a confrontation between the two, according to police.

During the altercation, Jose Castro-Oquendo punched Cortes-Cotto in the face, court documents state.

The two began fighting, police said, and at that point Juan Castro-Oquendo came to the scene.

Police say one witness said that Juan Castro-Oquendo was circling Cortes-Cotto and his brother, "grabbing at" both of them as the two fought.

Jose Castro-Oquendo was seen grabbing Cortes-Cotto from behind in a "bear hug," documents state. Police say Juan Castro-Oquendo then grabbed his brother by the arm and dragged him away. 

During the altercation, Cortes-Cotto's gun was removed from his waistband, and a shot was fired, documents state.

The witness told police that Cortes-Cotto was found with multiple bleeding injuries to his torso, documents state.

Another witness told police the Castro-Oquendo brothers fled the area eastbound on Maple Street after the shot was fired, police said.

Two witnesses were able to identify the brothers as suspects, court documents state.

Police were dispatched about 1:30 a.m. to the first block of East Maple Street for a report of shots fired, according to a news release.

Within minutes of that call, Cortes-Cotto arrived by private vehicle at York Hospital, where he died at 2:39 a.m., according to a news release by the York County Coroner's Office.

On July 10, the coroner's office said Cortes-Cotto's cause of death was multiple sharp-force injuries. 

York City Police obtained warrants for the brothers July 10, and the two were arrested about 8:45 a.m. July 11 in the 900 block of East Market Street.

Jose Castro-Oquendo's formal arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 29 in front of Common Pleas Judge Gregory M. Snyder.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.