An Ashburn man brutally beat and strangled his estranged wife, then made her death look like a suicide, investigators said.
Braulio Castillo, 43, was charged with first-degree murder Tuesday and is accused of killing Michelle Castillo, a mother of five.
"The evidence shows she was beaten and suffocated before she was found hanging in the downstairs bathroom," said Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman. "That hanging was not the cause of her death."
Braulio Castillo is being held without bond. He appeared in court Monday for an arraignment and has a preliminary hearing scheduled for next month.
The day before Michelle Castillo's body was found, the estranged couple had a court date related to their divorce. The two had been separated for more than a year.
According to court documents obtained by News4's Julie Carey, Michelle had accused her husband of being physically abusive and threatening her before they separated.
"[He] wakes me up at 2:30 in the morning yellling, pointing his finger in my face and telling me not to talk to my friends about him," Michelle said in a court filing. "He also says that if I keep doing it, he is just going to crash this plane and sink this ship. Regarding our company or our marriage or our life?"
She had obtained a protective order against her husband.
Police tell News4 that Braulio Castillo was seen on a neighbor's security camera entering Michelle's home on the evening of March 19, just minutes before she came home. Police say he was seen on surveillance video exiting the house by himself several hours later, just after midnight.
The next morning, the couple's four youngest children called Braulio Castillo because they couldn't find their mother. When he arrived at the home, he asked a neighbor to help find Michelle because he couldn't enter the house due to the protection order.
Investigators say Castillo searched the basement, reported that he couldn't find Michelle and left with the children.
"That was certainly susupicious," Chapman said. "When he left with the children, the neighbor didn't feel things were right and it was the neighbor who called the sheriff's office and we responded and ultimately found her hanging in the bsasement bathroom downstairs."
Michelle Castillo's death has sent shockwaves through the affluent Northern Virginia community where she lived. Neighbors told News4 that she was an avid athlete and had been training for a triathalon.
"She was a wonderful human being and a great mother, a great friend, a great neighbor, and what a loss," said neighbor Veronica Finamore. "This is a nightmare every day. You wake up and realize it isn't a nightmare; you relive it."
A visitation and funeral services were planned last weekend to honor Michelle. Her youngest four children are being cared for by a friend.
Braulio Castillo's name is already known to many on Capitol Hill. He came under fire during a hearing last summer, when Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, a veteran who lost both legs in Iraq, scolded Castillo for getting a disabled veteran status for his company, Strong Castle, based on a high school football injury.
“Shame on you, Mr. Castillo,” Duckworth said in the hearing. “Shame on you. You may not have broken any laws … but you have broken trust of this great nation.”
Stay with NBCWashington.com and News4 as this story develops.