Wayland Murder Trial Live Blog: Officer Says He Conducted Surveillance on Fujita Home After Body was Found
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 timestamp. For more about this case and trial, see "Wayland Murder: Nathaniel Fujita Trial."
12:55 p.m. -- On cross-examination, Sullivan asks Smith to point out several areas on the map of Wayland, including the Fujita home and various wooded areas and streets.
Sullivan testified that from the Fujita house at the corner of West Plain Street and Fuller Street it was "no more than 100 yards" to the end of the Fuller Street cul-de-sac with woods beyond.
Sullivan then asked Smith whether he'd ever met Nathaniel Fujita before the July 3 night he visited his home looking for Astley.
Smith replied that he didn't recall having ever met Fujita, but that he did not believe Fujita was intoxicated at the time of the conversation, which he characterized again as "normal."
"The way that he (Nathaniel Fujita) was answering, the way he was talking, you don't know if that was how he normally spoke or not?" Sullivan asked.
"No," Smith said.
Sullivan then moved on to Smith's observations about the Fujita home during his timing conducting surveillance. Smith testified that there are houses on both sides of the street and a parking area in front of the garage.
Judge Peter Lauriat is adjourning court for the day. Tomorrow the jurors will be on a view of particular scenes relevant to the case.
12:36 p.m. -- Wayland Police Sgt. William Smith has taken the stand.
He testified that when he started his shift at 11 p.m. on July 3, he was assigned to patrol the north sector of Wayland. Officer Sean Fitzgerald was assigned to patrol the south side that night, Smith testified.
He said he was dispatched to Wayland Town Beach at about 11:30 p.m. He said it took him minutes to get there.
"When I entered the lot at first, I observed several females standing in the lot," Smith said. He added that he saw people down on the beach near the water as well.
He said he saw one vehicle -- moments later he testified it was a Jeep Cherokee -- parked in the Town Beach lot, in addition to Fitzgerald's vehicle.
Smith said Fitzgerald informed him there was a girl missing, and Smith began to search the woods for the next 20 minutes.
He said he returned to the parking lot and had a conversation with Astley's mother, Mary Dunne, who was "very emotionally upset, crying." Smith testified that he attempted to console Dunne, telling her "Lauren was probably just out with her friends and we'd find her and bring her back."
Smith said he observed some other girls, whom he believed to be Astley's friends, in the parking lot, but he didn't speak with them.
He was directed then to go to the Fujita residence, he said, "to speak with Nate regarding Lauren." Smith said he drove the about one-quarter mile from Wayland Town Beach to the Fujita residence at 108 W. Plain Street, parked his cruiser on West Plain and walked up the front walkway to ring the doorbell. This was at about midnight, Smith said.
Smith testified that Beth Fujita and the defendant came to the door. He said that he introduced himself to the Fujitas as "Smitty" (a nickname he's known by at Wayland High School). Smith testified that Fujita shook his hand and "I believe we looked eye-to-eye."
During the ensuing five-minute conversation, Smith said he "didn't notice anything un-normal."
"Nate was standing there," Smith continued. "He was wearing gym shorts and a shirt. There was nothing out of the ordinary."
When McGovern asked Smith whether Fujita had any trouble understanding him during the conversation and Smith replied, "No, we had a normal conversation. I believe we were looking at each other, talking face-to-face."
Fujita told Smith that Astley had come to visit at about 7:45 p.m., and she had parked around the corner down by the fence because Fujita didn't want his mother to see her.
Fujita told Smith that they had talked for a few minutes when Astley came by, but when questioned about what they discussed, Smith said Fujita replied, "It was awkward."
Smith said Fujita repeated two more times that the conversation with Astley had been awkward, and then Fujita's mother, Beth Fujita spoke up to tell Smith that she and her son "had been home all night watching movies together."
Sullivan has objected to McGovern's asking what Beth Fujita said that night and the attorneys are now meeting with the judge in a sidebar conference.
After the sidebar, McGovern asked Smith, "Did Mrs. Fujita make a statement to you that she had seen Lauren Astley recently at Natick Mall, but had not mentioned it to her son."
"Yes," Smith replied.
Smith said he left the Fujita house, instructing them to let police know if they heard from Astley -- a request to which they agreed -- and Smith returned to Wayland Town Beach.
Smith said he used a thermal-imaging camera to conduct a 45-minute search of the area around Wayland Town Beach, returning only heat readings from rocks and trees that continued to radiate heat from the day.
Using a large map of Wayland, Smith then pointed out the locations he had been discussing, including a search trip he took to Sandy Point in Cochituate State Park, where someone indicated they had seen a person walking the night of July 3.
Smith said he searched the granite wall area and woods of Sandy Point, and walked back through a nearby cemetery.
Smith testified that he continued taking part in a search for Astley into the early morning areas, including using a Department of Conservation and Recreation boat to search the water and shoreline of Lake Cochituate.
Soon after completing his boat search, Smith said he heard a radio transmission that a body had been found on Water Row. He said he responded to the Water Row scene and "observed what appeared to be a body. I observed what appeared, to me, to be a leg."
Smith used his cruiser to block access to Water Row, allowing only emergency vehicles through. When he was relieved of that duty at about 8:30 a.m., Smith said he was directed to take an unmarked Wayland Police unit and "go down and keep an eye on the Fujita residence ... see whether anyone was coming or going from the household."
Smith testified that a man got into a white vehicle in front of the residence -- he later learned it was Tomo Fujita, the defendant's father. Tomo Fujita went to Dunkin' Donuts on Main Street, Smith said, but no one else came or went from the house while he was conducting surveillance.
Smith said he later was assigned to conduct surveillance on another person, whose vehicle had been spotted in the parking lot at Wayland Town Beach the night of July 3.
11:41 a.m. -- Court returned at about 11:30 a.m., with Sullivan cross-examining Boudreau.
Sullivan established that part of Boudreau's duties as assistant manager would be to "to make sure that employees were not harassed or stalked or bothered by anybody."
No one, Boudreau said, had ever filed a complaint about Fujita coming into the store and bothering Astley.
Turning to the day Boudreau said she observed Beth Fujita and the defendant's younger sister sitting on a bench outside 344 talking with Astley, Sullivan asks Boudreau again what she saw.
Boudreau replied that Beth Fujita and the younger sister were seated on the bench, but Astley was standing and looked "a little bit detached."
Moving on to July 3, Sullivan questions Boudreau, saying Astley didn't make any comments about being nervous or afraid during the closing up the store and "getting ready to go wherever she's going to go."
"That is correct," Boudreau said.
The cross-examination is over. McGovern is submitting an exhibit as evidence: Employee records from Shop344. McGovern points out Astley's clock-out time on July 3, 2011, as 6:47 p.m.
11:05 a.m. -- Stephanie Boudreau served as a manager-in-training and then assistant manager at the Natick Mall location of Store 344 during the time that Astley was working there.
In late June 2011, Boudreau testified, she came into work and saw Lauren talking with Beth Fujita and Fujita's younger sister at a bench outside 344.
"I observed the woman appeared distraught," Boudreau said. She "appeared to me crying."
Boudreau was working on Sunday, July 3, and testified that Astley was using her phone to play music over the intercom system.
Boudreau said that when a phone call or text message comes in, it interrupts the flow of music, and that "happened repeatedly that day."
On July 3, 2011, Boudreau testified that Astley was scheduled to close the shop and did. They left at about 6:45 p.m. and walked opposite directions out of the mall.
Boudreau said she was later contacted by police about Astley.
Court is now in its morning recess and will resume in about 15 minutes with the cross-examination of Boudreau.
10:47 a.m. -- On cross-examination, Sullivan established that Reineke was never made aware that Astley was being stalked or harassed by anyone.
When Beth Fujita and her daughter came into the store, Reineke said she didn't find it unusual because she had been told that the daughter, Fujita's younger sister, could be interested in a job at the store.
But the conversation continued for 20-30 minutes.
Reineke testified that Beth Fujita appeared to be "distraught" when she came into the store to talk to Astley.
Sullivan pressed Reineke on whether it was "an unusual event" for Beth Fujita to come into the store, distraught and upset, and talk with Lauren for 30 minutes.
Stephanie Boudreau, another 344 employee, has now taken the stand.
10:35 a.m. -- Maeghen Reineke, store manager of the Natick location of Store 344, as of January 2011, took the stand.
She was asked to replace most of the staff when she took the position at the store. Reineke testified that she hired Astley in the spring of 2011.
Store 344 Manager Maeghen Reineke testified that she never met Nathaniel Fujita or saw him in the store, but did know that Beth Fujita, the defendant's mother came in to talk with Astley sometime in early June.
"At one point his mother came into the store to speak to Lauren. I did not meet her directly, but I was introduced to his younger sister," Reineke testified.
Reineke grew concerned as she watched Beth Fujita talk to Astley near the fitting room in the store, she said, because she was concerned about her employee's distraction and also the nature of the conversation.
"It seemed to be a serious conversation ... and this particular conversation [Astley] had her arms crossed and she was leaning against the wall," Reineke testified. "She looked a little upset from where I could see."
She testified that the conversation in the store went on for between 20-30 minutes, and Reineke said she eventually intervened and told Astley she could go on her break.
Reineke said she saw Astley leave with her wallet and saw her walking with Beth Fujita and Fujita's younger sister in the direction of the food court at the mall. When Astley returned 30 minutes later, Reineke said she appeared, "frustrated."
Cross examination begins now.
10:19 a.m. -- Alessandra Chinetti, a sales associate at 344, a shop at Natick Mall, in July 2011 is called to testify.
Chinetti said that she met Astley in the early spring of 2011 when Astley began working at 344. The two would work together during shifts one to three times a week, Chinetti said.
McGovern asked whether Chinetti ever met anyone in Astley's personal life, and Chinetti responded that Nate Fujita had been introduced to her as Astely's boyfriend when he came to visit her in the spring of 2011.
Chinetti indicated that the man she met as Astley's boyfriend at 344 was the man now sitting at the defendant's table, which the record now indicates.
McGovern continued to question Chinetti on her knowledge of Astley's personal life, and Chinetti said she became aware that Astley and Fujita had broken up at some point. She also learned on the Friday before Astley died that she was seeing other people romantically.
On July 3, 2011, Chinetti said she was working with Astley. During their overlapping shifts that day, Astley told her that after work, "she was going to talk with her ex-boyfriend and see how he's doing because she's worried about him."
On cross-examination, Sullivan asks Chinetti to describe Astley's demeanor when she introduced her to Fujita in the spring.
"You didn't pick up on any kind of anger or resentment?" Sullivan asked.
Chinetti responded that she did not.
Sullivan continued, asking whether Chinetti ever knew of Fujita making phone calls to 344, or coming into the store uninvited after Fujita and Astley broke up.
Sullivan asked Chinetti whether she remembered Astley telling her, Fujita "seemed depressed" when she was talking about going to visit him on July 3. Chinetti indicated she didn't remember whether the word "depressed" came up, but Sullivan referred to Chinetti's Grand Jury testimony in August 2011 in which she did use the word "depressed" to describe what Astley had told her.
Sullivan ends his cross-examination.
Maeghen Reineke is now taking the stand.
9:55 a.m. -- Trooper Brian Roderick, a member of the Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section (C.A.R.S.) points out elements of the diagram he created of the scene at Water Row where Astley's body was discovered.
Roderick explains, in answer to McGovern's questions, that he does not label evidence, but merely maps and diagram what other investigators have marked.
Roderick points out a gray stripe on the map that shows the road of Water Row, flanked on both sides by green, showing the landscape. Numbers on the diagrams mark where evidence was found and a separate marker labels where Astley's body was located.
Sullivan in his cross-examination asks, "Would it be fair to say it's a very secluded area?'"
Roderick agrees that it is.
"You don't remember seeing any houses or developments or businesses at least within your area of site on Water Row?" Sullivan continues.
"I don't remember any, no," Roderick responds.
Sullivan questioned Roderick on the process of creating the diagrams, asking "You get to the scene, much of the investigation is already done and somebody has placed these evidence markers."
Roderick testified that Astley's body had been removed by the time he got there, but there was no evidence marker in its place. Roderick, responding to Sullivan's questions, said he created the diagram based on where Trooper David Twomey pointed out the body was located.
Sullivan ends his cross-examination and the attorneys are now meeting in a sidebar with the judge.
9:20 a.m. -- Trooper Scott MacKenzie returns to the stand.
Prosecutor Lisa McGovern quickly finished her questioning, asking MacKenize how long he was at the scene where Lauren Astley's body was recovered (he responded, "approximately four hours), and whether other searches of the area took place while he was there.
MacKenzie said other searches did take place, but he did not participate in them.
Defense attorney William Sullivan is now cross-examining MacKenzie.
Using an image of the marsh where the body was found on Water Row submitted yesterday as an exhibit, Sullivan asks "No where, at least shown on this photograph, are there any houses or commercial buildings?"
MacKenzie went on to testify, answering Sullivan's question, that he knew someone had located footprints at the marshy area where the body was found.
The witness said he did see the footprints between the road and water.
Sullivan also questioned MacKenzie on the position of the dress Astley was wearing when her body was found. MacKenzie said the dress was pulled up behind her back, but he could not say how it came to be pulled up around her neck.
Next witness Trooper Brian Roderick, works in collision and reenactment analysis.
9:15 a.m. -- Nathaniel Fujita has entered the courtroom at Middlesex Superior Court for the second day of testimony in his trial. He is dressed today in a black suit and white shirt and appears to be talking quietly with his defense team.
Judge Peter Lauriat entered the courtroom briefly at about 9:05 a.m., but left almost immediately and called a "short recess," after meeting in a sidebar with attorneys from both sides.
The crowd is significantly less today, with several rows in the back of the courtroom empty of people.
The judge and jury have returned. We're beginning for the day.