Casteel Wife Says He Did Not Commit Murders

  • Monday, May 5, 2003
  • Rob York

The wife of Frank Casteel told a criminal court jury Monday he did not commit the Signal Mountain murders in 1988.

Frank and Susie Casteel were at their remote property at the Blue Hole, but did not see three men on three-wheelers, she said.

She admitted she wrote letters to a woman Casteel was having an affair with, talking about him being a "murderer."

“I was very angry, a lot of it had to do with my hormones acting up,” she said. Mrs. Casteel testified that she had to have a hysterectomy due to her hormonal problems.

“I wanted her to believe that he done it,” she said. “I wanted him out of my house.”

Mrs. Casteel said that she would not have sent the letters if she had known her husband would face charges. “He did not murder them,” she said.

On the night of the murders, she drove their Scrambler Jeep, taking their sick collie dog home while Casteel stayed behind to look for a purse she had lost, she said, then she went back to get him.

If there were any gunshots during that time, they did not hear them due to the noise made by the creek, she said. While the prosecution claims Casteel moved the bodies of the three victims, Mrs. Casteel testified that he has suffered from back pain for many years which would have made such an effort nearly impossible.

Mrs. Casteel never saw her husband point a gun at anyone, she said.

Steve Craig testified that he was allowed on the Casteel property on July 7, 1988, just before the murders. “(Casteel) said, ‘Guys like you in trucks I don’t have a problem with,” Mr. Craig said.

However, Mr. Craig testified that Casteel cursed, saying he "will kill one of them (on three-wheelers) if I have to."

The witness said Casteel was calm at first, then when he started talking about three-wheelers "he got a crazed look in his eyes."

The jury also heard from Marie Hill, the woman who had the affair with Casteel.

She told of getting letters in the mail with clippings about the Signal Mountain murders and warning she was "dating a murderer."

Ms. Hill discussed the three letters she got in the mail with Casteel, she said. Casteel admitted to Ms. Hill that he had taken one of the letters and destroyed it, “because it could be damaging to him,” Ms. Hill said.

Donnie Casteel, the defendant’s son, testified that he did not help move the bodies of the victims on the night of their murder. He had been working at Captain D’s restaurant from the afternoon until nearly midnight, after which we went directly home and to sleep, he said. Mr. Casteel was staying with his grandparents, Frank Jr. and Martha Casteel, at 808 Moss St. in Chattanooga at the time. His testimony was supported by that of his grandparents.

Frank Casteel Jr. is deceased, but a transcript of his prior testimony was read which corroborated Donnie Casteel’s statements.

The state finished its proof and Susie Casteel was the first witness for the defense in the trial that is moving much faster than expected. The defense will call two to three witnesses Tuesday morning before resting, Attorney John Cavett said. This will be followed by closing arguments from both sides.

Casteel was earlier convicted and given three life sentences in the murders of Richard Mason, Kenneth Griffith, and Earl Smock. The case was sent back for a new trial.

A Nashville jury is hearing proof at the Courts Building in Chattanooga.

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