Gunman shot 4-year-old Ava Castillo in forehead while accomplices watched, prosecutors say

HOUSTON – The three people who have been charged in connection with the shooting death of a 4-year-old during a purse-snatching last month appeared in court Monday morning.

Ava Castillo was killed and her sister and mother were injured when three people tried to steal her mother’s purse outside their Greenspoint-area apartment Nov. 14.

Philip Battles, 18, Ferrell Dardar, 17, and Marco Alton Miller, 17, were arrested last week. Each of them were charged with capital murder in connection with the case.

VIDEO: Prosecutor discusses Ava Castillo case

Police said Battles was arrested in connection with a separate homicide case, but admitted to being the driver of the getaway car investigators said was used in the Castillo case.

Prosecutors said Battles also implicated Dardar and Miller as his accomplices, and that a witness also placed Dardar and Miller at the scene.

During Monday's hearing, prosecutors said Dardar shot Ava in the forehead and Miller served as a lookout.

While each suspect allegedly played their part, prosecutors say it doesn't matter who fired the gun.

"Everyone can be held criminally responsible for that shooter's actions," Prosecutor Angela Weltin said.

The shooting was just a part of a string of crimes the teens are accused of committing that night.

"In a very short period of time, a lot of damage was done. A lot of violent acts committed by these individuals," Weltin said.

Before that night, both Dardar and Battles were already facing other charges.

Dardar was out on bond for several counts of aggravated robbery.

And Battles is facing another capital murder charge in the November shooting of 62-year-old Ignacio Ortega.

Because of their ages, Dardar and Miller are not eligible for the death penalty or life in prison without parole. However, they could be sentenced to life in prison with parole if they are convicted.

PHOTOS: Ava Castillo, Daina Gomez and Betsida Castillo

Ava’s mother, Diana Gomez, and sister, Betsida were shot, but survived.

All three men were being held in jail without bond.

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About the Author:

Aaron Barker has been a senior digital editor at KPRC 2 since 2016. As a meteorologist, he specializes in stories about the weather. He has covered Hurricane Harvey, the Astros first World Series win, the Santa Fe High School shooting, the ITC fire and Tropical Storm Imelda.