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Murder charge looms in Dominican Republic for Orioles pitcher

From Jorge Pineda, For CNN
  • Baltimore Oriole Alfredo Simon could face murder charges this week for a New Year's Day killing
  • The victim's family has dropped a wrongful death claim, but the prosecutor wants to try the case
  • The forensic evidence is not conclusive, but the prosecutor says he has "enough to proceed"

(CNN) -- Baltimore Orioles pitcher Alfredo Simon could be charged with murder as early as this week, a prosecutor in his native Dominican Republic said Tuesday.

Simon is suspected of shooting 25-year-old Michael Castillo to death and wounding Castillo's cousin in the northern coastal town of Puerto Plata during the early morning hours of New Year's Day.

Although Simon has reached a settlement with Castillo's family to drop wrongful death charges, prosecutor Victor Mueses, speaking on the phone from Santo Domingo, said that recent forensic investigation results give his office "enough to proceed" with unspecified murder charges.

Mueses said the ballistics report from the Forensics Institute reveals that "the general characteristics" of the bullet extracted from Castillo's body are compatible with the weapon Simon surrendered when he turned himself in to Dominican National Police on January 3. However, the prosecutor admitted that he has requested further forensic explanation, since microscopic examination called that compatibility into question.

Simon's lawyer Maria Dignora Dilone stressed the inconclusivity of the forensics report.

"There's no confusion with the ballistics report. It does favor our client, so (Mueses) should study the case well. He should not accuse Alfredo," she said. "What's most prudent is for the DA to drop the charges. He doesn't have proof to link Simon to the incident, not one bit of proof."

She added that Mueses is "under pressure" from the media.

Mueses said Simon would be declared a fugitive of the court if he fails to show up for his next hearing, and he criticized the judge for allowing him to leave the country.

Simon, 29, was freed on March 3 after spending two months in jail on involuntary homicide charges and paying about $50,000 in bail. His lawyer at the time, Carlos Olivares, said Simon was free to travel and could go to the United States.

Olivares said in March that shooting in the air in celebration of the new year is a common practice in the Dominican Republic and that Simon was one of many who did so that night.

"A group of 14, 15 people shot up in the air, including my client," he told reporters. "So, they planted the thesis that it could have been him."

Mueses says investigators are looking for a video that aired on a local station, which he says would be more evidence against the ball player.

The Orioles have placed righthander Simon on their restricted list. When he was released from jail, the team's website said that "Simon is unlikely to pitch in 2011 due to off-the-field issues."

CNN's Tom Watkins contributed to this story