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Aurora quadruple homicide raises doubts about effectiveness of protection orders

Expert says protective orders should be one part of a comprehensive safety plan
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Posted at 3:15 PM, Nov 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-05 19:21:59-04

AURORA, Colo. – Last Sunday’s quadruple homicide in Aurora has led some people to question the effectiveness of protection orders when it comes to keeping survivors of domestic violence safe.

A domestic violence expert told Denver7 protection orders are effective for many survivors but that they should be just one part of a comprehensive safety plan.

The Aurora shooting happened around 2 a.m. Sunday Oct. 30, in the 900 block of N. Geneva Street. The suspect in the shooting was identified by police as 21-year-old Joseph Castorena. The suspect remains at large.

Aurora quadruple homicide raises doubts about effectiveness of protection orders

Castorena is accused of shooting and killing Jesus Serrano, 51; Maria Anita Serrano, 22; Kenneth Eugene Green Luque, 20; and Rudolfo Salgado Perez, 49, amidst an ongoing domestic violence situation, according to police.

Ubaldo Codina describes the relationship one of his nieces had with Castorena as tense. He says not only did Castorena threaten his niece but her family.

“She said she was scared of him. If she [did] anything, that he was going to kill them,” said Codina. “She was just scared.”

Court records show Codina’s niece and some of her immediate family members filed for protection orders against the suspect, including her sister Mariana and their dad, Jesus.

But before they could make their case to a judge for a permanent protection order, Mariana and Jesus were killed, along with Mariana’s husband Ken, and a tenant who had been renting a room from Jesus.

Codina’s niece, who had been dating Castorena, was found unharmed along with two young children, according to police.

As police continue searching for the suspect, the tragedy has led some people to question whether protection orders are even worth it.

Denver7 asked an expert to weigh in.

“Anytime there is a fatality, especially when there are multiple fatalities, it’s a tragedy in the community,” said Abby Hansen, the chief program officer at SafeHouse Denver, which provides resources to survivors of domestic violence.

Hansen understands why some people may doubt the effectiveness of protection orders after a tragedy like the one that happened in Aurora, but she says they can be quite effective.

“Clearly, this is a tragic outcome and it's really important to remember that for so many survivors, protection orders are working,” said Hansen.

Protection orders are court orders that are intended to prohibit certain conduct and limit or prohibit contact or communication in order to protect the person who obtained the protection order.

The research on the effectiveness of protection orders is limited. In 2010, the United States Department of Justice released a report after tracking 210 women who had obtained protection orders.

After six months, they found protection orders were not violated for half the women in the study. Those who had experienced a violation were significantly less like to experience abuse or violence.

The study’s authors concluded, “the vast majority felt the protective order was fairly or extremely effective.”

However, the report did find that stalking emerged “as a significant risk factor for protective order violations, sustained fear, and lower perceived effectiveness of the protection order.”

Hansen says it’s not uncommon for family members of the domestic violence survivor to also obtain protection orders.

“Perpetrators are really skilled at finding areas where they can leverage their power and so if a survivor had a loved one that is living in their home, or somebody that is particularly connected to, it certainly makes sense that a perpetrator might also exert their power and control over that person as well,” said Hansen.

Hansen says protection orders should be just one part of a safety plan that should be tailored to the survivor and their family. She says SafeHouse Denver can provide help in developing one.

“Our safety plans are very client-centered,” said Hansen. “We will look at the different venues in which a survivor lives their life, such as work, school, church, or community groups, and then we work with the survivor to identify the risks in those venues and who are the allies in those venues. And then from there, we can work to reduce those risks, and tap into allies and resources.”

While Hansen cannot comment on the specific case in Aurora, she said she hopes increased awareness about domestic violence will come out of the tragedy.

“This is an incredibly difficult experience for our whole community and if there's anything that we can take away from it, we want survivors to know that there is support available.”

On Friday night, Aurora Police announced the arrest of Juan Castorena, the 18-year-old brother of Joseph Castorena. Police said Juan Castorena was arrested in Denver near West Belleview Avenue and South Federal Blvd.

Juan Castorena faces the charge of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.

Police said there’s no evidence Juan Castorena was involved in the shootings, and they did not provide any specific details about what his role may have been.

At least $15,000 in reward money is available for information that leads to the arrest of Joseph Castorena.

To be eligible for the reward, tipsters must call the Metro Denver Crime Stoppers tip line at 720-913-7867 or visit the online tip form. They can remain anonymous.

Anyone who spots Castorena is advised to call 911 immediately.

People experiencing domestic violence can call SafeDenver’s 24-crisis and information line at 303-318-9989.

They can also find support by visiting SafeDenver’s website.