Wayland man killed his former girlfriend because he was humiliated by their break-up, prosecutor tells jury
WOBURN -- The prosecutor in the trial of Nathaniel Fujita told jurors this morning that the Wayland man killed his one-time girlfriend because he was humiliated when she broke up with him and he murdered her in revenge.
Fujita is accused of strangling and slashing to death Lauren Astley on July 3, 2011. Both were 18 years old at the time, and were college-bound Wayland High School graduates; Fujita was an accomplished athlete and Astley a talented singer.
In opening arguments to the jury, as families and friends of both the victim and the accused looked on, Assistant District Attorney Lisa McGovern said their relationship began to fall apart when she broke up with him on Astley’s birthday in April.
On April 25, he wrote her an email, asking her to come back. “Lauren, I know you’re scared to turn back and with good reason, but please give it another shot or we’ll both regret it,’’ the email said, according to the prosecutor.
She did get back with him but quickly realized that it was a mistake. They broke up again in May.
“Evidence will show you that the man you just heard sworn before you, Nathaniel Fujita, a man Lauren Astley had known and cared for, a man she had gone out with in high school for three years, coldly, cruelly killed her, because she wounded his ego,’’ McGovern told the jury.
“This defendant attacked Lauren to get her back to hurt her, and to nullify her in a purposeful and deliberate way, calculated not only to inflict pain but to end her life and also to cover up what he was doing,’’ McGovern added.
She said the day before the death, Astley had been texting and calling Fujita for a couple of weeks, because she was worried about him. He wasn’t answering. On June 27, he responded and they tried to set up a meeting.
Finally, on July 3, she got a text from him at work at 12:36 that he might stop by. He didn’t, but he later told her they would get together that evening.
She called him at 6:51 p.m. and he gave her unusual instructions: don’t park at the regular spot when she came to his house. Park on a nearby street, next to a garage.
At 7:05, she texted him: “here.’’
Sometime between 7:05 and 7:20 p.m., he strangled her with a bungee cord. She wasn’t dead, however. He then slashed her throat with a knife, causing a “gaping jagged-edged wound’’ and other injuries. She was also battered during the struggle.
She died a slow death. “Her death came in minutes, not in seconds,’’ McGovern said.
The defense attorney, William Sullivan, is planning an insanity defense.
In his opening argument today, Sullivan argued that when Fujita committed the murder, he was having a brief psychotic disorder and was not responsible for the crime.
“In most murder cases, the question is ‘who, who did it, who done it,’ ‘’ Sullivan said. “That’s not this case. This case, there is going to be two questions – why and how.’’
“Why did this horrific thing happen?’’ Sullivan said.
Continuing his argument, Sullivan said, Fujita was happy, outgoing, on his way to a good college and dating one of the most popular girls at Wayland High. But after the break-up, he plunged into a major depression and became extremely withdrawn.
When Astley came over that night, Sullivan said, Fujita was briefly psychotic. “What you will hear is that the defendant was not able to control himself or really understand what it was that he was doing,’’ Sullivan said.
During this morning’s opening argument, Astley’s mother and father listened quietly to the details of their daughter’s death. Fujita, at the defendant’s table, stared straight ahead, erect, and watched the proceedings carefully. His mother and father were also in the courtroom.
Later in the day, jurors heard testimony from a state trooper and from a woman who discovered the body of Astley.
The woman, Priscilla Antion, went out on July 4, 2011, on a bike ride to look for blue heron on Water Row in Wayland. It was sunny and warm; she approached a clearing in the dense foliage at the side of the road slowly, trying not to disturb the birds.
At first, she couldn’t understand what she was looking at: a person's knees rising out of the water.
“I thought no, this can’t be, that just happens on TV. You don’t see this in real life,” she said from the witness stand on the opening day of Nathaniel Fujita’s murder trial in Middlesex Superior Court in Sudbury.
“I almost talked myself out of it. I said, I’m gonna leave, this isn’t real,” she said, her voice wavering. “And then I thought somewhere, if this is real, there’s somebody who is waiting for someone to call or someone to walk through that door, and their loved one’s not there. I had to make sure. So I got off my bike. I stepped forward a few feet and still couldn’t tell. And then I crouched down. I looked back again, and that’s when I saw a clenched fist sticking out of the water.”
Fujita, now 20, is facing charges of first-degree murder, two charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and one count of assault and battery. If he is convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.
If Fujita is found not guilty because of a lack of criminal responsibility, Fujita would be committed indefinitely, said Sullivan. He would undergo periodic evaluations about his safety and condition.
The trial is expected to take about three weeks. The jury will likely begin deliberating in early March, according to the judge.