When police searched Nathaniel Fujita’s Wayland home hours after the body of his ex-girlfriend was pulled from a marsh, they found soaking wet clothing stuffed in a crawl space and blood in the kitchen and all over the garage, according to court testimony Tuesday.
Later, when a cyber expert searched Fujita’s computer, she found a Google search about how to get rid of fingerprints, and evidence that Fujita had joined a Facebook group called “Have you seen Lauren Astley” – his former high school sweetheart.
Fujita is on trial for first-degree murder and other charges at Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn; he is accused of killing Astley, 18, on July 3, 2011 after she broke up with him in their senior year at Wayland High School.
Prosecutors say Fujita lured her to his house, told her to park out of sight, and then beat, strangled and slashed her to death in his home’s detached garage. He allegedly dumped her body in a marsh off Water Row in Wayland, where it was found the next day.
Fujita’s attorney, William Sullivan, has said his client was suffering a brief psychotic episode at the time of the killing.
In the days leading up to the killing, Fujita’s web activity was unremarkable, according to an examination of his laptop conducted by Melissa Marino, a digital evidence investigator with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office.
Marino testified that Fujita mostly viewed music videos, football statistics, beach activities, online shopping sites and strength and conditioning information from Trinity College, where he was planning to attend college.
But according to Marino, at around 1 a.m. on July 4, the day after Astley was killed, Fujita did a Google search for the question, “Does water erase fingerprints?”
At 4:23 a.m. on the same day, said Marino, Fujita accessed pictures that appear to be of himself, shirtless, posing in athletic shorts.
He also joined a Facebook group dedicated to finding Astley, Marino testified.
On the day Astley’s body was found, State Police Trooper Anthony DeLucia kicked in a back door of the Fujita home to execute a search warrant, he testified Tuesday. The first thing he discovered was a pair of sneakers tucked into a black bag in a closet in the basement.
“They were wet, they were muddy, and they had paper towels shoved in them,” said DeLucia, who served as the lead investigator on the case.
In a crawl space in Fujita’s bedroom, DeLucia found a pair of sneakers covered in what appeared to be blood, a black plastic trash bag with two gray sweatshirts and a t-shirt inside, and a couple empty beer cans.
All the clothing was dripping wet and some of the pockets were full of mud, said Jennifer Montgomery, a forensic scientist at the state police crime lab who took the clothing to the lab.
In the center of the Fujita’s garage, where the killing allegedly occurred, Montgomery testified that she found a large bloodstain surrounded by blood drops, and bloodstains at the back of the garage.
There were traces of blood not visible to the naked eye in the kitchen and on the sink, she said, and when she examined the gold Honda that Fujita drove, she found bloodstains all over the back seat.
When Fujita was arrested early in the morning on July 5, he had abrasions on his right hand, knee and upper thigh, said Montgomery, who processed him.
Much of the physical evidence of the case was shown to the jury on Tuesday. Prosecutor Lisa McGovern began by unfolding a stiff, bloodstained towel that DeLucia testified was recovered from Water Row on July 4.
When McGovern held aloft the black bungee cord that was found tangled in Astley’s hair when they pulled her body from the marsh, Fujita put his head down and Astley’s mother, Mary Dunne, began shaking.
Before McGovern opened the last two evidence bags, she appeared to look briefly at Dunne, who nodded. McGovern then showed the jury a wedge sandal that was found in the water near Astley’s body, and the spaghetti-strap leopard print dress Astley was wearing on the day she was killed.
Testimony will continue on Wednesday with Montgomery, who has not yet been cross-examined.
Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.