Fujita Trial Live Blog: Detectives Asked Fujita's Father About Defendant's Whereabouts July 4
Wayland man Nathaniel Fujita is facing first-degree murder charges arising from the death of Lauren Astley, also of Wayland, in 2011.
Editor's Note: Wayland Patch will post regular updates from the courtroom at Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn. The most recent updates will be at the top of the story with a time stamp. For more about this case and trial, see "Wayland Murder: Nathaniel Fujita Trial."
1:03 p.m. -- Trooper Anthony DeLucia took the stand. He said he is a detective with the Massachusetts State Police and is assigned to the Middlesex County District Attorney's office. DeLucia handles death investigations.
On the morning of July 4, 2011, DeLucia received a call about a "suspicious death" in Wayland. He responded to Wayland after speaking with Det. Sgt. Jamie Berger.
On the way to Wayland, DeLucia said, he called Crime Scene Services and had a few conversations with Berger.
DeLucia said that he arrived to find other state police at Water Row, including K-9 officers who had responded from Wayland Town Beach.
On first arriving at Water Row, DeLucia said that he saw a body in the water and a shoe floating in the water.
He said removing the body efficiently and without disturbing evidence is a primary concern on arrival at a scene. DeLucia said that aerial photos of the scene were taken at the time.
DeLucia said that Brian Roderick was contacted to create a map showing locations of various items.
"Myself, along with others, walked up and down Water Row, looking to both sides to see if there was anything that would maybe answer some questions for us," DeLucia said.
At that time, a tire track was located, but that proved to not have any value to this case.
"There was a member of the dive team that found an item along the side of the roadway," DeLucia continued, without elaborating.
DeLucia said that Trooper David Twomey spent time photographing and videoing the scene. They also decided that they wanted to call a state chemist to come to the crime scene.
"I called them because I wasn't sure if there was going to be any biological or forensic evidence once the dive team went out to the body," DeLucia said.
Chemist Jennifer Montgomery responded.
Mary Dunne, Astley's mother, was visibly shaken as DeLucia described the scene at Water Row.
DeLucia said that he remembered Astley was wearing a dress and one shoe.
"The dress was covering her chin, her neck and part of her upper body," DeLucia said. "She was brought up to the roadway and I pulled down her dress.
"I saw a gaping wound to her neck," he said. "Upon seeing that wound, myself and Sgt. Berger got into his vehicle and drove over to 108 W. Plain St."
DeLucia said he also saw a black bungee cord tangled in Astley's hair and that the bungee cord was stored with her body when it was removed from the marsh.
McGovern then showed a photo of the bungee cord to the jury, at which point both of Astley's parents shook with emotion. McGovern quickly removed the photo.
DeLucia said that he and Berger arrived at 108 W. Plain St., to find one vehicle parked in the garage -- a white Toyota Rav4.
When DeLucia knocked at the rear door and Tomo Fujita answered the door within a few seconds.
"I told him we wanted to speak with Nathaniel," DeLucia said. "I ended up going up to Nathaniel's bedroom."
DeLucia said he was looking for Fujita's cell phone.
"I looked at the outlets [in Fujita's bedroom] to see if anything was plugged in," DeLucia said. "I didn't touch or manipulate anything."
The phone wasn't found.
DeLucia said he asked Tomo Fujita to come to the police station for a further conversation.
"What was it that you sought in asking Mr. Fujita to come to the police station for an interview?" McGovern asked.
"I wanted to find out where Nathaniel was," DeLucia said.
DeLucia said he was involved in "various things" while Tomo Fujita was at the police station, including looking for the defendant, searching for a small gold SUV, working on an affidavit for a search warrant and other tasks.
DeLucia said he spoke with Tomo Fujita in the interview room and that he saw him go downstairs to be picked up from the station.
When asked whether he saw Tomo Fujita anywhere else in the police station, DeLucia responded that he had.
"He asked us if he could use the restroom after he'd spent some time in the interview room," DeLucia said.
DeLucia said he entered the public restroom and saw Tomo Fujita "talking on his cell phone."
McGovern asked whether police had asked Tomo Fujita to contact his wife, Beth Fujita, and DeLucia said they had but had been unsuccessful.
With that, testimony concluded for the day. We'll resume Tuesday at 9 a.m., with DeLucia on the stand.
12:27 p.m. -- Conor Murphy took the stand at 11:20 a.m. He's now 19 years old and has lived in Wayland for about the past 18 years.
Murphy attended Belmont Hill for high school, where he repeated his ninth grade year and graduated. He is now attending Harvard University.
Murphy said that he was very close to D.J. Henderson, Cal Williams and R. J. Bolivar early in high school, and the group began hanging out with Fujita around Murphy's sophomore year, the other friends' junior year.
In Fujita's senior year, the five friends saw each other almost every weekend, Murphy said, until late in the school year.
"We [Henderson, Bolivar, Williams and Murphy] just kind of sometimes didn't want to hang out with him [Fujita] as much," Murphy said. "A couple times it might have been intentional, yes."
When McGovern asked why the four friends would hang out apart from Fujita, Sullivan objected and the judge called the attorneys into a sidebar conference.
"Is it fair to say it was a matter fo personality, it was a matter of Nathaniel Fujita's personality?" McGovern said.
"Yes," Murphy said. "I would consider he was our friend, but he was a fifth wheel."
Murphy said that dynamic in the relationship between the five guys was consistent throughout high school.
Murphy said he knew and was friends with Astley, but that Fujita didn't talk about his relationship with her.
"He would brush it off," Murphy said of the topic of Astley and Fujita's relationship.
Murphy said that he recalled a primary final breakup in the spring of 2011, and that he observed that Astley went on to see other men at that time. Murphy said he did not tell Fujita about that.
Prior to the June 4 graduation party at Blahut's house, Murphy said he, Fujita and the other friends gathered at the Williams home prior to going to the graduation party where they ate and drank vodka.
Murphy said he remembered that Williams' mother drove them to the Blahut party and that the friends were "composed" in the car with Williams' mother in spite of feeling the effects of the alcohol.
Murphy said he wasn't present when Fujita was asked to leave the Blahut party, but did see Fujita at the Wayland High School graduation the following day.
At the June 11 graduation party co-hosted by Fujita and the other friends who graduated, Murphy said he didn't see Fujita and Astley together.
"When a lot of people had left, there were probably 20 or 30 close people there and Nate's father was playing guitar for everybody," Murphy said, adding that Fujita seemed "embarrassed" that his father was playing. Murphy said it was a typical response for Fujita.
When McGovern attempted to ask further questions about Fujita's interactions with his parents, Sullivan objected and the judge called everyone into a sidebar conference.
Following the sidebar, McGovern moved on to another line of questioning.
Murphy said that he, along with Fujita and others, helped set up tables, chairs and tents for the June 11 party.
It was about "a week or two after" the graduation party that Murphy next saw Fujita, this time at the beach on Lake Cochituate.
"We called him and told him to come," Murphy said, explaining that he, Henderson and Williams were at the beach fishing.
"He seemed normal," Murphy said of Fujita.
They left the beach, stopped at Murphy's house and then went to Wendy's to get food, Murphy said, adding that he ate the dinner his mom had prepared him at home before going with the other friends to eat at Wendy's.
Murphy said he didn't remember whether Fujita smoke marijuana at the beach, but if he had it would have been "completely normal."
Murphy testified that after the trip to Wendy's they returned to his own house and hung out. He estimated he spent five or six hours with Fujita that day, but didn't seen Fujita again until after Astley's death.
He left Wayland and went to Mashpee to stay at his grandparents' house, and Bolivar and Henderson joined him on July 3, 2011.
On the morning of July 4, the three headed back to Wayland.
Murphy went on to testify that he didn't see any changes in Fujita's appearance or behavior in June 2011.
"Did Nathaniel Fujita ever complain to you about any headaches at all, or any head trauma?" Sullivan asked.
"No," Murphy responded.
Sullivan's cross-examination began at 11:48 a.m.
The attorney opened his cross-examination asking whether Murhpy considered Fujita a "fifth wheel" during Fujita's senior year, to which Murphy responded that was true.
Sullivan displayed a photo of Fujita and the four friends, and proceeded to ask Murphy about his time at Belmont Hill.
Murphy then agreed that he "grew up in a football family," and that his father is a head football coach.
Murphy testified that he played quarterback at Belmont Hill and knows about the receiver position.
"You saw that Nathaniel Fujita was a receiver?" Sullivan said.
Sullivan continued asking whether Fujita also played safety, and asked whether Murphy was aware that receivers sometimes get hit and that the job of a safety is to tackle people "even if you don't want to," to which Murphy responded that was true.
Murphy said he didn't remember whether Fujita talked with him about a football injury in his junior year that landed him in the hospital.
Sullivan continued, asking questions about Fujita's time playing in the WayCo softball league and showing a photo featuring Fujita in a league photo after his sophomore year as well as a league photo from the summer after Fujita's junior year.
"It's a highly social, kind of fun thing to do?" Sullivan asked about the WayCo league.
During the summer of 2010, the summer before Fujita's senior year, Murphy said they hung out regularly.
"When someone is in your friend group, it doesn't mean you like them all the time," Murphy said.
During the defendant's senior year, Murphy said, they didn't hang out with Fujita as much.
"I believe we had just kind of had it," Murphy said. "We were fed up."
Sullivan asked whether Murphy, Henderson, Bolivar and Williams set up a phone app that allowed them to talk separate from Fujita, and Murphy said that they did.
"I'm assuming that as a stand-up guy, you told Fujita you were going to do this?" Sullivan asked, and Murphy said he had not communicated that to Fujita.
"All the way through that senior year, you would be talking with Nathaniel Fujita as if he was one of the 'buddies'" and then talking just among the four, Sullivan asked.
Murphy said that sometimes that did occur.
On Hill Night, a party in the woods for Wayland High seniors, Murphy said he drove his friends to the event, but didn't stay.
The night of the Blahut graduation party, Murphy said he and the other four friends drank in Williams' basement prior to the party. He said he and the others were drunk, but he didn't know of anyone using any marijuana at that time.
Murphy said he didn't remember how drunk Fujita or the others were before they went to the Blahut party.
"Would it be fair to say you don't really remember much of that party, the specifics of Mr. Fujita at all?" Sullivan said.
Murphy said he didn't see much of Fujita at the party.
Turning his attention to the June 11 graduation party, co-hosted by Fujita and others, Sullivan questioned Murphy about him saying Fujita appeared "embarrassed" when his father began to play.
"When he saw his father playing, he may have made a comment or seemed embarrassed physically," Murphy explained.
Sullivan then asked whether the group of four was consciously excluding Fujita between the graduation party until the fishing excursion he mentioned under McGovern's questioning.
"We did not, not want to be his friend," Murphy said. "We just didn't want to see him all the time."
Sullivan asked whether the four friends had reached out to Fujita at all since the party, and Murphy said he didn't believe they had.
Murphy said it would be fair to say that the friends made the decision to call Fujita on the day of the fishing trip and reach out to him.
"You reach out to this guy that you haven't seen in a couple of weeks because you're kind of concerned," Sullivan said. "That's why you called."
"We didn't need him, we wanted to see him," Murphy said, adding that they'd heard he had been throwing the football with another person and was therefore seeing at least some other person.
Murphy said he continued to see the other people in his friend group, but did not see Fujita.
Sullivan asked whether any of the friends contacted Fujita about Fourth of July plans even though several of the other friends got together, and Murphy said they did not.
From June 11 to July 3, Murphy testified that he saw Fujita one time and didn't speak to him.
"Part of this was because you guys just didn't want to hang out with him anymore?" Sullivan asked.
"Yes," Murphy said.
Sullivan concluded his cross-examination at 12:27 p.m., and Trooper Anthony DeLucia was called to the stand.
10:56 a.m. -- Alesia Venuto, a relative of the Saba family through marriage, took the stand.
Venuto said she had been close to Caroline Saba, the defendant's cousin, and that she herself had two half-brothers who were 6 and 10 years old. Venuto said that Fujita sometimes watched her younger half-brothers.
"He was a mother's helper," Venuto said. "He'd come play with the kids," during May and June 2011.
Venuto said she saw Fujita primarily at Sunday dinners and family gatherings over the years.
In May and June 2011, Venuto said she recalled one time that Fujita had come to her family's home in Sudbury to watch her siblings.
Venuto said that she didn't see Fujita at any other time during May and June 2011, but that she saw him on July 2 when Saba and Fujita joined her at the beach.
Venuto recapped that Saba and Fujita met her at the beach before they went to her grandparent's house and the grandparents dropped the three off at the beach.
They walked down the beach to find an open area to play football, Venuto said, and once they did, she laid down and Saba and Fujita played football.
"He was smiling and having a good time with Caroline and being pretty active," Venuto said.
The three then ate food together, Venuto said, and Fujita and Saba smoked marijuana.
"I had brought up the fact that I had met Lauren Astley at 344," Venuto said. "He said they were not together.
"He just didn't seem that he wanted to talk about it, so I didn't really talk about it any farther than that," Venuto continued.
Venuto said that Fujita took part in conversation that afternoon.
The three friends returned to the grandparents' house that afternoon and the girls went to change while Fujita stayed with the grandparents.
"We thought it would be funny to leave him with my grandparents to have a conversation, because they're kind of funny," Venuto said.
She testified that she didn't remember what was said between her grandparents and Fujita, but that she believed he had been responding to their questions and engaging normally.
After reviewing her grand jury testimony, Venuto testified that during a trip to Mashpee Commons later that evening, the three friends talked about Fujita's time with her grandparents.
"He thought it was funny that we had left him there," Venuto said. "He laughed along with it."
When the three got ice cream at Mashpee Commons, Venuto said that Fujita's demeanor was "normal."
"He seemed to be happy," Venuto said.
They went to a kaleidoscope store after eating ice cream, Venuto said, and then they went to Vineyard Vines, a "preppy" clothing store.
"Caroline and I had made fun of Nathaniel saying that he would have to get used to wearing these clothes because Trinity was a preppy school," Venuto said. "Nathaniel was going to be attending Trinity that fall."
Fujita laughed with the girls, Venuto testified.
Venuto said the went to CVS next and that Fujita didn't have any trouble conducting transactions at the drugstore.
She said that Fujita and Saba left her grandparents' house between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Venuto said she communicated with Saba over the next couple of days and saw her again on July 5, when she picked her up at her house.
Venuto said that on the evening on July 5, she, Saba and Bassma Sayeh talked at Starbucks and at McDonald's. After dropping Sayeh off, Venuto said she and Saba talked in her car for about 20 minutes.
Venuto said that the time she spends with Venuto has changed since that July 5 conversation.
Sullivan began his cross-examination at 10:40 a.m.
Venuto said that Astley initiated the conversation when the two met at Shop344 in late May or early June 2011, and they discussed Fujita for three to five minutes.
By 2011, Venuto testified, her family was not that close with the Fujitas.
She reiterated that she saw Fujita working with her younger brothers just once in May or June 2011, and Venuto assented that he was good with her brothers.
Turning to July 2, 2011, Sullivan asked for more details about her grandparents' house and the time the three friends spent on the beach.
Asking detailed questions about the marijuana usage at the beach, Sullivan asked whether Venuto knew if Fujita or Saba had smoked marijuana prior to the cigarette on the beach. Venuto said she didn't know.
Turning to her grand jury testimony, Sullivan asked whether she remembered testifying that nothing strange stuck out in her mind about a conversation with the defendant at the beach.
Sullivan was asking specifically about Venuto's testimony today that they had discussed Astley.
"You're telling us that that conversation didn't stick out in your mind?" Sullivan asked.
"When asked if something stuck out in my mind, I was thinking of anything out of the ordinary that would key me off," Venuto testified.
Sullivan asked whether it was funny that Fujita was talking to her grandparents while he was high and continued to press on whether Fujita was high while they were eating and shopping at Mashpee Commons.
"The only marijuana that he smoked that I saw was on the beach," Venuto said.
Venuto said that Fujita didn't mention he had two or three other good friends down on the beach in Mashpee that day.
Sullivan concluded his questioning and the judge called the morning recess.
10:15 a.m. -- Under Sullivan's questioning, Blahut testified that Fujita was drunk the night of the graduation party in which she said he punched a tent pole.
Sullivan asked whether his close group of friends was also drunk, to which Blahut replied that they were.
Turning to the day after the graduation party, Sullivan asked whether Astley received a text from Fujita. Blahut said that Astley had shown her a text on June 5, 2011, from Fujita that read, she thought she remembered, "I hope we can still be friends."
Sullivan then asked about the June 11, 2011, graduation party co-hosted by Fujita and three close friends at Cal Williams' house.
Blahut said she didn't see Fujita between graduation on June 5 and the graduation party he co-hosted on June 11.
Sullivan asked whether Blahut learned at some point in mid to late June that Beth Fujita, the defendant's mother, had a conversation with Astley at her work at Shop344.
Blahut said that she hadn't seen Fujita since the June 11 party and noted that when she talked with her friends about him. The witness said that she knew Astley had begun to reach out to Fujita because she was worried about him.
"When did you become aware that she had started to reach out to Nathaniel Fujita because she was worried about him?" Sullivan asked.
"Some time after Beth Fujita visited Lauren at the mall," Blahut said.
Sullivan then asked Blahut whether she saw Fujita at all between the party at the Williams' house and her trip to New Hampshire on July 1.
Sullivan asked Blahut whether she remembered giving a statement to Wayland Det. Christopher Cohen that she hadn't seen Fujita at any parties and she thought it was "weird."
Blahut said she wasn't sure what she said to Cohen exactly, but said that she did talk with her friends about Fujita.
"Did you ever reach out to Nathaniel?" Sullivan asked.
"No," Blahut said. "I was never a close friend of Nate's. He was just my best friend's boyfriend."
Sullivan concluded his questioning and McGovern redirected the questioning, to ask about when Blahut saw Fujita.
McGovern asked whether the friends ever gathered without Fujita prior to June 2011.
Blahut said that they did sometimes gather without Fujita because of "his previous behaviors."
The questioning ended with that, and the prosecution called Alesia Venuto.
9:55 a.m. -- Hannah Blahut, one of Lauren Astley's best friends, has returned to the stand.
She resumed talking about an April 1, 2011, breakup between Astley and Fujita, and another breakup between the two "somewhere in late May."
Blahut also talked about seeing Fujita at a number of social events in the spring 2011 -- she testified that he didn't appear depressed at those events and she saw him socializing with others.
Turning to a June 4, 2011, graduation party, Blahut said she, Astley and Chloe Jacques hosted the party in Blahut's back yard.
Blahut said the party took place under a rented tent and that anywhere from 150-200 people attended.
Fujita and Astley attended, and Blahut testified that Fujita's behavior at the party drew her attention at some point. Before she could elaborate, defense attorney William Sullivan requested a sidebar conference with the judge and attorneys.
After the sidebar, the judge told the jury that "Mr. Fujita is not charged with committing any crimes other than those of the four indictments," considered at this trial.
Lauriat told the jury that Fujita's prior acts could not be considered as evidence he committed the crimes with which he is currently being charged.
Lauriat explained to the jury members that they should consider the potential testimony to follow, "Soley on the limited issue on the nature of his relationship with Lauren Astley," Lauriat said.
Blahut said that about an hour into the graduation party, she was aware that Fujita was following Astley around the party.
"He continued to follow Lauren Astley around," Blahut said. She continued that she heard Fujita say, "Can we just talk? Will you just listen to me?"
Blahut said she saw Astley push her arms down and look frustrated. At that point, Blahut said, Fujita went to a tent pole, balled up his fist and shoved it into the pole.
"The entire tent started to shake as though it was going to fall down and about 100 people at the party grabbed the tent and tried to hold it up," Blahut said.
Blahut agreed that Fujita, "said some harsh words," to her when Blahut confronted him. Soon after, Fujita's mother picked him up from the party, Blahut said.
The witness went on to testify that Fujita had been drinking that night, but he wasn't having any trouble with his coordination.
The next day was graduation, Blahut said, and Fujita was at the ceremony and interacting with people.
Blahut said that she didn't see much of Fujita after graduation as the friends all traveled and went their separate ways. Blahut herself said that she left for New Hampshire with her family on July 1.
While in New Hampshire, on July 3, 2011, Blahut learned that Astley was missing. She said she began calling and texting and joined a Facebook group dedicated to finding Astley.
At that point, Prosecutor Lisa McGovern showed Blahut a photo that the witness testified was Fujita's Facebook profile photo.
The afternoon of July 4, 2011, Blahut said she and her mom returned to Wayland where they met up with other friends and family of Astley.
McGovern concluded her questioning and Sullivan's cross-examination began at about 9:45 a.m.
9:13 a.m. -- Fujita has entered the courtroom and is dressed today in a black jacket, khakis, white shirt and tie.
Judge Peter Lauriat entered and met with the attorneys in a sidebar conference, but we are still waiting for the jury to enter.
The courtroom has filled up a bit more since the last update.
9 a.m. -- We're waiting in the courtroom for the defendant, Nathaniel Fujita, to enter.
The courtroom is fairly empty this morning.
Astley's parents, Malcolm Astley and Mary Dunne, are here.
Fujita's parents, Tomo and Beth Fujita, are also here.
Both sets of parents have been here throughout the trial.
Hannah Blahut, Astley's best friend, will be back on the stand to start testimony.