Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Stephen E. Sincavage today denied motions to overturn the murder conviction of Braulio M. Castillo. Tomorrow, Castillo is expected to be formally sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife, Michelle, in March 2014.
During a six-hour hearing on Monday, defense attorney Peter D. Greenspun made arguments about several evidentiary and prosecutorial issues that he said required the jury’s verdict to be overturned.
During a brief hearing Thursday afternoon, Sincavage issued his rulings denying those motions. Among his findings were that there was ample evidence for the jury to reach a guilty verdict, that comments made by Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Nicole Wittmann during closing arguments in the five-week trial were not prejudicial, and that information that the Sheriff’s Office lead investigator may have filed false information in a report on an unrelated case would not have been permitted to be used as evidence in the case even if persecutors had disclosed the incident to defense attorneys.
It is rare that jury verdicts are overturned at the Circuit Court level, however, it is likely Greenspun’s arguments will resurface as the case moves to the Virginia Court of Appeals over the next year or two.
The trial was held in May and June. In a circumstantial evidence case, prosecutors claimed that Castillo jogged from his nearby home to his estranged wife’s house, snuck inside and then strangled her in her bedroom, while their children were asleep in the home. He then took her body to a basement bathroom and made it appear that she hanged herself in the shower.
The couple was in the final stages of getting a divorce. Castillo’s attorneys argued that there was no conclusive evidence that he was in the home that night or that Michelle Castillo had not committed suicide.
Castillo was convicted of first-degree murder, breaking and entering with intent to murder, and violation of a protective order.
On Friday afternoon, Sincavage will hand down formal sentencing in the case. The jury recommended Castillo serve the rest of his life in prison on the murder conviction and 16 years for the other two charges.