Palomar PTA Leader’s Death has Shocked, Galvanized Community

The news hit Palomar Elementary Principal Erika Taylor like a shock. Her school’s PTA vice president was killed the day after Thanksgiving. It was an extraordinarily violent crime. Leonor Castillo was allegedly run over by her estranged husband not once but twice. She was the mother of three daughters, ages 3, 8 and 10. The two older girls attend Palomar.

When school resumed the following Monday, Taylor helped explain what happened to the girls, whose maternal grandparents were struggling to fully disclose the heart-wrenching truth. How do you tell children that their mother is dead? How do you tell children that their father is the suspect?

By the end of the week, Taylor was standing in front of a phalanx of television news cameras. She was accompanied by parents from her school, and a teacher who also is a PTA member. Taylor was reciting statistics about domestic violence. An estimated one out of every four children in California is directly exposed to violence as a victim or witness. Children exposed to domestic violence are at risk for developmental problems, psychiatric disorders, school difficulties, aggressive behavior, and low self-esteem. Children are the smallest victims.

“Children should not have to grow up without their parents. This is a tragedy,” Taylor said at the press conference.

It was time to do something about the issue. “If we can find a way to save one more parent,” Taylor said, “then that’s what we’re going to do.”

Palomar Elementary will hold a fundraiser this Thursday, December 18 for the children of Leonor Castillo. A spaghetti dinner will be held from 5-8 p.m. at the Chula Vista Elks Lodge, 901 Elks Lane, Chula Vista. The cost is $12 per person and includes spaghetti, a beverage, and dessert. The event is also intended to increase awareness about domestic violence and its impact on families and communities. Castillos’ three daughters are now being raised by their elderly grandparents following their mother’s death.

“Our hearts especially go out to the children, who realistically have lost both their parents in this horrible case of domestic violence, one to death, and one to incarceration,” said Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D. “We ask that our community join with our school leaders, parents, and PTA as we assist in the healing process for all.”

Castillo’s death prompted an outpouring of support for her children. The Chula Vista Police Department is holding a toy drive

Former NFL player Zeke Moreno and Palomar Principal Erika Taylor share a lighter moment with the children of Leonor Castillo.

Former NFL player Zeke Moreno and Palomar Principal Erika Taylor share a lighter moment with the children of Leonor Castillo.

and raising funds. Businesses, companies, community organizations and individuals are stepping forward to assist the family.

Taylor said parents at the school came to her office following the tragedy, crying and asking what they can do. Taylor said she wants to prevent this tragedy from happening again. She is working closely with her parent leaders, community organizations and elected officials to assist the Castillo children and ensure the issue of domestic violence emerges from the shadows.

“In this community, it’s not generally a topic of conversation,” Taylor said. “People don’t like to talk about it. After Leonor’s death, I had parents who had never really spoken at length with me before, come forward and share how this has affected them and mention about their own past experiences.”

Donations to the Castillo family from Palomar can be made to the Mission Federal account that has been established in the name of: Leonor Castillo Benefit Account. All checks can be made out in that name and delivered directly to Mission Federal, where the Leonor Castillo Benefit Account has been established.  Checks may also be mailed to Palomar Elementary at 300 East Palomar Street, Chula Vista, CA 91911.

In addition, a Gofundme account that has been set up at the following link if individuals would prefer to donate that way:


If You or Someone You Know Is Being Abused: You may call the San Diego Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-888-DVLINKS (1-888-385-4657). The hotline is answered by trained counselors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is bilingual, confidential and referrals may be provided for services in every region of the County. It offers information such as DV shelter bed availability, counseling referrals, batterer’s treatment information, and assistance with safety planning.

If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

Additional resources:

San Diego Domestic Violence Council:

South Bay Community Services:

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