What to Know
- Castillo he had a relationship with Kristin White after separating from his wife. They broke up, but he called and wrote White from jail.
- The prosecution questioned Castillo's alibi, namely the black eye he received the night she died and his trip to his friend's house.
A jury recommended a life sentence Tuesday for the Loudoun County, Virginia, man accused of killing his estranged wife and staging her death to look like a suicide.
The jury recommended that Braulio Castillo spend life in prison plus 16 years. Prosecutors had asked for life plus 21 years.
The wealthy Ashburn CEO was convicted Monday evening of killing his wife, Michelle Castillo, in 2014. He was found guilty of breaking into her home, suffocating her and then hanging her body in a shower to make it look like she killed herself.
The two were in the middle of a bitter divorce and custody battle.
Two of the Castillos' five children testified Tuesday about how the loss of their mother has changed their lives.
"I miss my mom. I love my mom, and a big portion of my life is gone," Nicholas Castillo, 23, said in court.
The four youngest children now are being cared for by foster parents, two of Michelle Castillo's closest friends.
Her loved ones cheered when the verdict was announced Monday after just a day of deliberations. They wore orange, the favorite color of the mother of five, and wore wristbands that said "champion."
"Michelle was a bright light," her friend Sharon Supp said. "She left a gaping hole in our hearts that will never be filled or fixed."
Braulio Castillo was free for most of the two years since his wife's death, after he posted $2 million bond. He showed no emotion as a court clerk read the jury's decision Monday.
The defense argued Michelle Castillo took her own life. That was excrutiating for friends to hear.
"It was extremely painful for us because if you knew her, you knew that she loved life," Supp said. "She loved her family and would never, ever leave her children."
Prosecutors told the jury that Michelle Castillo was happy and had just qualified for the Boston Marathon. She had no reason to commit suicide, they said.
The prosecution said Braulio Castillo had tried to smother his wife with a pillow as she slept, but stopped when he realized his young son also was in the bed. He told the boy to go to another room before he committed the crime.
Michelle Castillo was found hanging in a bathroom. Prosecutors said DNA and autopsy evidence proved her estranged husband suffocated her and then staged the scene to look like a suicide.
Prosecutors, like Michelle Castillo's friends, were happy to see Castillo go to jail.
"It's been very difficult for [loved ones] watching him coming and going from the courthouse," Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Nicole Wittman said. "It was nice for them to see that today he was taken into custody."
During closing arguments Friday, the prosecutor urged jurors to think about the protective order Michelle Castillo had against her husband.
"According to two courts, she and her children needed safety," the prosecutor said. She read the definition of family abuse as "any act involving violence, force, or threat."
"That's Braulio Castillo, that's the truth of what this marriage was," she said. "This was an abusive man. This was an abused woman."
But a defense attorney for Braulio Castillo said that although Michelle had a protective order against her husband, it didn't say there was "assaultive behavior."
The defense attorney also questioned why Braulio Castillo would kill his wife in her own house, where her children were sleeping, asking why he wouldn't have done it on the W&OD trail while she was running early one morning.
Michelle Castillo loved her children "with reckless abandon," Supp, her friend said.
Nicholas Castillo spoke to News4 after the jury's recommendation was announced.
"My siblings are protected. We all feel better," he said. "It's a mixed bag because no one wants to lose their dad. He needs to go away for what he's done."
Braulio Castillo's final sentencing by a judge is scheduled to take place Oct. 6.