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Reston au pair indicted on second degree murder in fatal shooting case

Fairfax County Courthouse (staff photo by James Jarvis)

An au pair linked to a fatal shooting last year in Herndon has been officially charged with murder.

On Monday (April 15), a grand jury indicted Juliana Peres Magalhaes, a 23-year-old live-in au pair from Brazil, on charges of second-degree murder and use of a firearm, according to a press release from Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano.

Magalhaes was arrested last year for her alleged involvement in the fatal shooting of 39-year-old Joseph Ryan at the Herndon home of her employers, Christine and Brendan Banfield.

Christine Banfield was allegedly killed by Ryan, who reportedly stabbed her. The nature of the relationship between Ryan and Christine Banfield remains unclear, though it has been suggested they may have been having an affair.

At a preliminary hearing last month, a Fairfax County judge ruled there was sufficient evidence for Peres Magalhaes’ case to proceed to trial.

During the hearing, prosecutors proposed that the deaths of Ryan and Christine Banfield may have been part of a conspiracy involving Peres Magalhaes and Brendan Banfield, who were allegedly also having an affair at the time.

The evidence presented at the hearing included several framed photographs of Brendan Banfield and Juliana Peres Magalhaes embracing, along with a woman’s robe hanging off a dresser, all found in Brendan Banfield’s bedroom seven months after the shooting, at the time of Peres Magalhaes’ arrest.

Prosecutors also alleged that Brendan Banfield and Peres Magalhaes visited a shooting range in Ashburn a few months before the incident and had replaced their personal cell phones just days before the shooting. Brendan Banfield returned to the range a month later to purchase a handgun, though it has not been confirmed if it was used on Ryan.

According to prosecutors, Brendan Banfield initially shot Ryan after he allegedly saw him stab his wife. Peres Magalhaes then allegedly shot Ryan a second time, resulting in his death. Prosecutors argued that the second shot was unwarranted as Ryan was already incapacitated after the first shot.

Peres Magalhaes has not been convicted. Instead, a majority of grand jurors, distinct from a trial jury, agree with the judge that there is sufficient evidence to advance her case to trial.

A trial date is expected to be set on Thursday, April 18.