Murder victim helped others ‘fix their hearts, but she could never fix her own’

Danielle Dever Jones didn’t want her daughter and granddaughters to leave her Lemoore home Sunday afternoon, just 30 minutes before her life came to an end when her boyfriend of four years shot her.

Deniell Dever
Danielle Dever, 40, was shot and killed by her longtime boyfriend in their Lemoore home on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017. Ashley Valdez Special to The Bee

“She didn’t want me to leave,” said her daughter, Ashley Valdez, who was on the way to a pizza parlor with her daughters. “I wish I would have hugged her tighter.”

As Valdez left her mother’s home, she waved at Dever’s boyfriend, Juan “Johnny” Castro, who was waiting in his car by the mailbox. (Jones was Danielle’s married name, but she typically used her maiden name.)

“I saw him parked at the mailbox. I thought maybe he would check the mail,” Valdez said. “He was just sitting there, looking down. We waved to him and he wouldn’t say hi to us.”

Castro, 43, killed Dever, 40, in their home on Cabrillo Street in Lemoore about 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Witnesses said they saw a man fleeing in a Dodge Charger, which was spotted about one hour later in Hanford. Castro led police on a chase to a rural area south of the city before he was stopped and fired at least one round at officers, injuring a K-9 before the officers fired back, killing him.

Juan Luis Castro, 43, of Lemoore Kings County Sheriff’s Office

The sheriff’s office said on Monday in a news release that two deputies and one Hanford police officer fired a total of nine rounds at Castro. The officer and deputies who fired their weapons were not named. The K-9, Dash, was taken by helicopter to a Fresno veterinarian where bullet fragments were removed from his leg during surgery.

Dever was dead when first responders arrived. The sheriff’s office said Monday she suffered from multiple gunshot wounds. Valdez said her mother was shot five times.

“She was a fighter. She would’ve fought for her life,” Valdez said. “He didn’t have to shoot her five times. He didn’t have to kill her like that. She was everything to me, and he knew that.”

Valdez said Devers and Castro were in a relationship for four years and lived together in Lemoore. Dever stayed home while Castro worked.

Castro didn’t interact with Dever’s close-knit family, Valdez said. “He was very huge, big and scary looking,” she said. “He would never talk, never saying anything and kept himself away whenever we got together for family functions. He was just really quiet.”

The sheriff’s office said Castro was arrested previously in Kings County for weapons, drug and traffic offenses. The Lemoore Police Department had no previous calls to the home Castro and Dever shared or any record of confrontation between the two.

The motive of the killing remains under investigation.

Dever daughters
Danielle Dever is pictured with her three daughters. Dever was shot and killed by her longtime boyfriend in their Lemoore home on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017. Ashley Valdez Special to The Bee

Valdez knew it wasn’t a happy relationship, but her mother didn’t talk about it. “She would never talk about her problems because she would never want us to hurt or worry,” Valdez said. “Something never set right with me.”

Instead, Dever “spent her whole life helping others fix their hearts, but she could never fix her own,” Valdez said.

And, more than anything, Dever loved her daughters and granddaughters. She met her youngest granddaughter, just one week old, only once before she died.

Every morning when she woke up, she’d see her daughters’ photos at her bedside and read from a book of proverbs. “She said that’s what she lived for,” Valdez said.

And when she or her daughter felt sad, they’d escape to Pismo Beach. “We’d write our problems in the sand and let the water wash them away,” Valdez said.

“I want the world to know how special of a woman she was,” Valdez said. “She was an amazing mom, but she was an even better grandma.”

The family has set up a Go Fund Me page to help cover funeral expenses.