After a month of listening to testimony, the jury in the murder trial of Braulio Castillo began its deliberations this morning.
Castillo is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his estranged wife, Michelle, and faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison if convicted.
Attorneys made their closing arguments in court Friday.
County prosecutors say Castillo killed Michelle in the master bedroom of her Ashburn home, before moving her body to a bathroom basement and hanging her from a shower with an electrical cord. Defense attorneys have said Michelle committed suicide.
Chief Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Nicole Wittmann told the jury that Castillo was motivated by disputes over the couple’s divorce, including the custody of their children and alimony payments. “He had every reason to want Michelle dead,” she said.
The prosecution argued that Michelle’s death was malicious, saying Castillo suffocated her with a pillow before strangling her with a cord. “He choked her, he smothered her, he put the cord around her neck and killed her,” Wittmann said.
Wittmann also sought to discredit Castillo’s potential alibi. During his testimony early last week, Castillio said he was at his friend Bill Beyer’s house on March 19, 2014, the date of Michelle’s death. However, there are no records of such claims, Wittmann said. “His alibi sounds more like an ‘alilie.’ He is his own alibi; that’s not an alibi,” Wittmann said. “Just because they have an excuse for everything, that doesn’t make it true.”
The prosecution said Michelle feared for her life and had been granted a protected order. “He has abused her in the past,” Wittmann said. “She and her children needed protection.”
In an almost four-hour closing argument, the defense sought to convince the jury that Michelle had committed suicide and Castillo was innocent.
Defense Attorney Peter Greenspun argued the prosecution did not prove its case. “[This is] a prosecution based on innuendo and unsupported inferences,” he said. The defense claimed there was a lack of evidence to prove Castillo had access to Michelle’s home, a lack of evidence that he was the man seen running in the security video from a neighbor’s house that night, and a lack of DNA evidence.
Greenspun also sought to discredit Zachary, Castillo’s then five-year-old son, who testified he saw his father in the house the night of Michelle’s death. Zachary’s statements have been inconsistent outside of the courtroom.
“I’m not suggesting for a minute that these kids were up on the stand lying. But they are kids,” Greenspun said. “[Castillo is] an interested, involved, caring and loving father. Do you think he would do that to them?”
Greenspun urged the jury to question everything during deliberation. “If they haven’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it’s him, then it’s not him.”