Lou Castro was a man with a shadowy past who somehow convinced a number of people that he was an angel, could heal the sick and see into the future.
This "angel," however, was actually named Daniel Perez, and was found guilty in February 2015 of fraud, child exploitation, rape and first-degree murder. There are also several other mysterious deaths surrounding the Wichita, Kansas, compound where Perez held court, according to “Deadly Cults” on Oxygen.
Perez first attracted law enforcement's attention in 2003 when he was living with a small group of people from mixed backgrounds on a 20-acre property called Angel’s Landing. First, there were the fancy cars — most of the vehicles on the property were worth more than $40,000, according to the Wichita Eagle. There was a swimming pool and multiple houses on the property as well.
He didn't appear to work, and local law enforcement couldn’t find a paper trail on the man calling himself “Lou Castro.”
Sara McGrath was brought into Perez's “family” by her mom, a real estate agent who first helped “Lou Castro” find the right property when he came to town. McGrath was in her mid-teens and her younger sister, Emily, was around 11.
Sara didn't like Perez at all, she told producers, but her mom felt a bond with him and was convinced he was an angel, who could tell you when you were going to die. Life at Angel’s Landing took a dark turn after a few months, however.
In June 2003, Sara was on her way to a car dealership where Perez was supposed to meet her when her little sister called. Patricia Hughes, who was like a second mother to the girls, had slipped and fallen in the pool. She was dead.
Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office’s Detective Ron Goodwyn had his eye on Perez already, and when he heard of 26-year-old Hughes's death, he took an active interest in finding out just what was happening at Angel’s Landing.
“[Perez] was now known for two things: Money no one could explain and the death of Patricia Hughes,” Goodwyn told producers.
Patricia's husband, Brian, became severely depressed and began talking with Perez more, Sara said.
“[Perez] was telling him, 'One day you'll get your chance to go to the other side,'” she told producers.
When Brian died in a freak accident at the autobody shop where he worked in March 2006, Goodwyn dove into every bit of personal and financial information he could on everyone living at Angel’s Landing.
“[Perez] is either very unlucky, with close friends dying, or he's involved in some way in making it happen,” he told producers.
Goodwyn found a disturbing pattern of expensive life insurance policies being taken out on people in Perez's circle, then cashed in by members. About every two and a half years, bank account balances would get low in the makeshift family, then someone would die, Goodwyn said.
What followed was a years-long investigation, which was difficult because Goodwyn didn't have police reports, official victims or know Perez's true identity. He once tailed him to a restaurant and tried unsuccessfully several times to get his prints, but the cult leader proved elusive.
Meanwhile, Perez was regularly raping Sara for years under the guise of “fixing her,” she told producers.
“There was nothing I could do,” she said, of the nearly seven years of sexual abuse she suffered at Perez's hand. “I remember saying, 'Am I fixed now?'”
In September 2008, Sara's mother died in a freak car accident. Sara found solace in the arms of the man who would become her husband, Daniel McGrath. Goodwyn intensified his investigation, afraid that after another two years there might be another death.
When McGrath realized some of what was going on in his girlfriend's makeshift family, he sent an email to the FBI through their website in 2010. Goodwyn began working with federal agents and found the identity Perez was likely about to inhabit next, in Tennessee.
On April 21, 2010, authorities arrested Perez at his new home in Tennessee. Through interviews with Sara, her younger sister and other members of the commune, they uncovered Perez's shocking methods of manipulation and abuse and he was charged with 28 felonies. In February 2015, he was convicted on all counts and sentenced to 80 years in prison.
Goodwyn called it “the most bizarre” story he'd ever heard but said Perez's conviction was “probably the most amazing feeling in my law enforcement career.”
For more on the shocking Angel’s Landing story, including Sara's firsthand account of living with Daniel Perez and the incredible lengths law enforcement went to catch him, watch “Deadly Cults” at Oxygen.com and airing Sundays at 7/6c on Oxygen.
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