Vigil held in Battle Ground for 3-year-old killed this week

About 250 people attend to pay respects, show their support for family

By Andy Matarrese, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

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BATTLE GROUND — Roughly 250 people packed a Battle Ground neighborhood street Friday evening to pay their respects to Jose Castillo-Cisneros, an act the boy’s grandfather called a profound act of kindness.

Jose Castillo-Cisneros, nicknamed Pepe, was killed Monday night at his Battle Ground home.

Friends, family, neighbors and other well-wishers bearing candles gathered around the home — where friends and strangers had been adding flowers, stuffed animals and candles to an impromptu memorial — to remember Pepe and support the family.

The family has been moved by the outpouring of support, said Fernando Cisneros-Garcia, the boy’s maternal grandfather.

“They know the community is trying to help, the community is trying to do something for Pepe, for Pepe’s memory,” he said.

God, he said, has used the tragedy to open up peoples’ hearts to each other.

“The whole community is hurting. … The whole community is feeling the pain,” he said, apologizing for his English.

People are taking a break from their lives to reflect, he said, “to share with us, our pain. It’s just, I have no words.”

Court records say Pepe’s mother’s boyfriend, Ricardo Gutierrez, beat and stabbed the boy to death Monday evening. Gutierrez, 39, became enraged when the boy started crying over a movie he didn’t want to watch with his sister, court records said.

Witnesses told police that Gutierrez then attacked the boy, only stopping when the 3-year-old stopped breathing, according to court records.

Battle Ground Police Chief Bob Richardson said the ordeal has been tough on his officers, many of whom are themselves parents of young children.

Several officers attend the boy’s funeral earlier Friday, he said, and some came to the vigil to show support for the family.

Clark County Fire District 3 Chief Steve Wrightson said his crews have had a few meetings with district chaplains as well.

Ashley and Shawn Kesler live a few blocks away and brought their young boys Wyatt and Mason to the vigil.

“We just felt like we needed to come out here to support” the family, Ashley Kesler said. “It’s just really hard because it’s a small town. … Just a sad situation.”

Robert Rivera lives just a few houses down, and came with his young daughters Madison and Miley.

“I have another daughter that’s just barely younger than him. It’s just crazy to see someone’s life taken so soon, without having a chance,” he said. “It’s just crazy. I can’t believe it.”

Gutierrez, who was born in Los Angeles, had a relationship with the boy’s mother but was not the boy’s father. Court records said he had lived at the residence for a couple of months.

Gutierrez is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, on $1.5 million bond. He’s scheduled to be arraigned June 3.

Cisneros-Garcia called his 9-year-old granddaughter, who was in the house during the assault, a hero for having the courage to call 911, before things got even worse.

“She’s a hero, because she had the power to talk, to call 911,” he said.

The girl is doing so-so, he said, adding that his daughter and granddaughter will be seeking counseling soon.

“I hope in God we can recover very soon. That is really hard, but we will try,” he said.

Guests offered prayers, flowers and hugs. Pepe, who had autism, loved Mickey Mouse, and many of the decorations had the trademark big ears.

The family had moved into the house, which they were renting, recently, and after what happened, intend to move elsewhere. Girls from the Battle Ground High School softball team carried around jars for donations, and people sold T-shirts with Pepe’s picture to help the family with expenses.

An online fundraiser set up by Pepe’s aunt had raised more than $11,600 as of Friday night.

Chaplain Rob Lloyd told the crowd that their choice to come and show their support was a powerful expression of solidarity.

“This is the thing that communities really desire,” he said. “I’m looking around and I’m seeing a whole host of people who say, ‘We stand with you.’ ”

Lloyd asked the crowd to think back to the help they’ve received in trying times, saying now is the time to pay such kindness forward.

“That’s powerful, that’s a tribute to Pepe above everything else, the way that you will love his family and carry them through this event, in your prayers, in your thoughts and in simple deeds,” he said

Family friend Sylvia Moreno, translating for Cisneros-Garcia as he addressed the crowd, said the family was grateful for all the help they’ve received, and for all who came to remember Pepe.

“It’s incredible to see all you here, how you guys responded to him, and opened you hearts to him,” Moreno said.