Portuguese model gets maximum sentence in NY murder of journalist

NEW YORK Fri Dec 21, 2012 3:28pm EST

NEW YORK Dec 21 (Reuters) - A Portuguese model convicted of murdering and castrating his lover, a prominent journalist, was sentenced on Friday to the maximum term of 25 years to life in prison.

A jury rejected Renato Seabra's insanity plea last month, finding him guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Carlos Castro, 65, in their Times Square hotel room during a holiday trip to New York in January 2011.

Prosecutors said Seabra, 23, choked Castro, stamped on his face, bludgeoned him with a computer monitor and a wine bottle, and cut out Castro's testicles with a corkscrew. Seabra then showered, dressed in a smart suit and tie, and took a taxi to a hospital, where he was later found by police.

"There was extreme brutality, sadism and dehumanizing acts," Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Daniel FitzGerald said as he handed down the maximum sentence.

Seabra will be nearly 50 years old before he is eligible to seek parole.

Seabra told the judge he still could not explain why he killed Castro, and asked for forgiveness from Castro's friends and family.

"I wish to say I killed Carlos Castro, that's not anything I want to paint differently," Seabra said through an interpreter as his mother quietly wept behind him and one of Castro's sisters shook her head.

"At the moment I went into the room that day something took power of me," Seabra said. "We used to fight each other but it was always playfully, it was never aggressive before."

Castro had taken Seabra on a trip to New York to celebrate New Year's Eve and to introduce the young model to people working in the fashion business to help his nascent career. The couple fought angrily and repeatedly over their relationship, and Castro, upset, decided to cut the trip short.

Soon afterward, Castro was dead.

At the sentencing, Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Maxine Rosenthal, who prosecuted the case, read a letter to the court written by the victim's relatives, describing Castro's early love of writing and poetry in his native Angola and his rise to prominence as a journalist after his move to Lisbon in 1975, where he wrote about culture and gay rights.

The letter described how the wealthy and well-connected Castro was a breadwinner for his mother until her death, and for three of his four sisters who were widowed and otherwise each received only a small pension. New York City, where he was murdered, was "his favorite place in the world," the letter said.

Rosenthal asked for the maximum sentence, saying Seabra was "an angry man capable of extreme violence."

Seabra's lawyers asked for a lenient sentence of 18 years to life in prison, arguing that numerous doctors had diagnosed him as suffering from bipolar disorder and that the murder was the result of a psychotic episode related to mental illness. (Editing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by David Gregorio)

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