Wayland Murder Trial Live Blog: Fujita Dabs Eyes as His Uncle Testifies in His Murder Trial
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 p.m. -- Phil Saba took the stand and testified that his wife, Joyce, has two sisters, one of which is Beth Fujita.
George Mattingly, who has acted as the Fujita family's spokesperson during this case, is the brother of Joyce Saba and Beth Fujita, Saba testified.
During the time he lived in Wayland prior to moving to 83 Stonybrook Road in Framingham in 2010, Saba said he spent a lot of time at the Fujita house and had plenty of opportunity to see the defendant as he was growing up.
Saba said he saw Nathaniel Fujita during his senior year, 2010-2011. He said he was aware that Fujita had a girlfriend.
"I met Lauren three, four times," Saba said, estimating that he first met her probably a year before her death. "She was this beautiful girl -- charming, nice."
Saba then testified that he became aware that the relationship had ended in about April 2011.
As his uncle testified about family gatherings and meeting Astley, Fujita put his head down and dabbed at his eyes with a tissue.
Saba said he would consider himself fairly close to his nephew.
"Nathaniel has always been shy," Saba said. "He was never a talkative person. That's just the way he was."
Saba said his nephew seemed to open up more and grow easier to talk to in his later years of high school.
Saba said that he and his nephew connected over football.
"In the spring of 2011, Nathaniel was very depressed," Saba said, talking about Fujita's personality in high school.
"With respect to the spring of 2011, did Nathaniel Fujita become easier to talk to and more talkative or not?" McGovern asked, to which Saba responded that he wasn't sure.
McGovern asked Saba about his testimony on July 28, 2011. She then showed him a document, asking him to read it and then look up at her.
"Do you recall making the statement that it was getting better towards his graduation?" McGovern then asked.
"That's the way that it came out there, but the way I meant it was the last few years of his high school years he opened up as he got into high school," Saba replied.
Saba said he believed that Fujita was in shape during his senior year and was trying to gain weight before going off to play football at Trinity College.
The defendant's uncle testified that Fujita never spoke with him about Astley.
In June and July 2011, Saba said remembered three times he saw Fujita, including a graduation party at the Fujita's on June 11, a Fourth of July party on July 3 and again on July 4.
The graduation party in June was primarily a family gathering, Saba said.
When asked whether Fujita interacted at the party, Saba responded "I don't remember because the kids are usually in one room and the adults are in the dining room," Saba said. "I really don't know what Nate was doing at that time."
When pressed by McGovern, Saba said he didn't see anything unusual about Fujita that day.
Saba said he believes that his daughter, Caroline, and Fujita went to the Cape on July 2, but Saba doesn't remember seeing the defendant that day.
He said he next saw Fujita on Sunday, July 3, at the Fourth of July party, that he said he was "guessing" started at 1 p.m. or 2 p.m.
His wife's family was invited to the party, Saba said, explaining that he was in the back yard cooking during the start of the party.
Saba testified that he didn't know what time Tomo and Beth Fujita and Nathaniel Fujita arrived at the party.
"Nothing unusual," Saba said when asked what he noticed about Fujita at the party. He said he saw Fujita watching television in the living room.
Saba said he has no memory of his daughter, Caroline, and Fujita talking at the party, but he did talk briefly with Fujita when he came into the kitchen, where Saba was seated.
"I believe he was on his way out," Saba said. "We had some words. I knew he was getting ready to leave."
McGovern showed Saba another document about his testimony on July 28.
"Did you not say he was at the kitchen table?" McGovern said.
"If that's what you'd like, that's what I said before," Saba responded.
"I talked about his weight," Saba said. "I said, 'Gee, Nathaniel, you look good. Did you gain some weight?'
"He said, 'Yeah, I gained 10 pounds.'"
Saba said he had no trouble understanding Fujita.
"I think he was kinda happy that he'd put on some weight and that I'd noticed," Saba said. "He appeared to appreciate that I'd noticed, in my opinion."
The conversation occurred close to 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m., Saba said, also testifying that he didn't believe anyone else had left the party at that time.
"Before he left, did you have occasion to notice whether Nathaniel Fujita was on the phone with anyone?" McGovern asked.
Saba said he didn't notice, but remembered that Fujita asked Caroline if she wanted to go with him to, Saba thinks, GNC.
Tomo and Beth Fujita left "somewhere around" 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m., Saba testified.
Before they left, Saba said he saw Beth Fujita on the phone as she was getting ready to go out the door between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Saba said he didn't remember whether the phone call ended before she left.
Saba said Beth Fujita may have been "a little perturbed" after getting the phone call.
The witness doesn't remember who was in the kitchen at the time of the phone call besides the two Fujitas, himself and his wife, Joyce.
He said he seems to remember that the Fujita's were the last to leave.
In response to McGovern's questions, Saba said no police came to his home on the night of July 3.
On the morning of July 4, Saba said he went grocery shopping with his wife and arrived home in the early afternoon.
They then, Saba said, decided to go to Home Depot and check out some tables and chairs.
With that, court adjourned for the afternoon. We'll resume again at 9 a.m. Friday.
12:20 p.m. -- Sullivan opened his cross-examination asking whether Berger saw liquid pooled by Astley's Jeep at the town beach, which Berger said he did.
Berger said he was informed that some items had been removed to Malcolm Astley's vehicle from his daughter's Jeep, by the time Berger arrived.
Sullivan asked specifically whether any water bottles were removed from Astley's Jeep, and Berger said that he wasn't aware of any.
"Is there any communication between officers and investigators when cases like this are looked into," Sullivan asked.
Berger said he had not talked with Trooper David Twomey about fingerprint testing in the case.
"I was one of the investigators," Berger said, assenting that he is the chief investigator on the case for Wayland.
"Did it not occur to you to check whether there were any fingerprints done?" Sullivan said.
"No," Berger responded, adding that that could be Trooper Tony DeLucia's responsibility.
Berger said he did not know whether the liquid pooled by Astley's Jeep was tested, but said it "could have been" his responsibility to ensure it was.
Moving to Berger's involvement at Water Row on July 4, Berger testified that he did see a bungee cord around Astley's neck when her body was recovered.
Sullivan's questions then moved to Berger's trip to 108 W. Plain St., at about noon on July 4. Berger testified that he saw a vehicle in the driveway in front of the garage; it was a white Toyota Rav 4.
Sullivan asked whether Berger and the officer he was with asked Tomo Fujita whether he could locate Nathaniel Fujita's phone, to which Berger responded in the affirmative.
Sullivan asked Berger whether he'd been interviewing Tomo Fujita for about 20 minutes before asking him to go back to the station for a further interview.
Berger said that was true.
"It's clear to you at that point that English was not his first language?" Sullivan asked.
"I had no problem understanding him," Berger said.
Sullivan pressed Berger on whether he noticed that Tomo Fujita had an accent, which Berger acknowledged that he did.
Berger testified that Tomo Fujita got into a police cruiser and went to the police station for a further interview, which began at the station about 1:04 p.m.
Tomo Fujita told Berger that someone was waiting for him in the back parking lot of the station some time after 2 p.m., Berger said.
"When you say that a scene is being secured, does that indicate that nobody is to go in or out of the scene at that point?" Sullivan asked.
"Correct," Berger said.
Berger said they obtained the search warrant some time after 6 p.m.
"Did you tell [Tomo Fujita] he should not go back to his house," Sullivan asked, referring to Tomo Fujita's time at the police station.
"No," Berger said.
Sullivan asked how investigators obtained access to the Fujita residence to execute the search warrant, and Berger said he didn't know.
At that point, McGovern objected to Sullivan's line of questioning and asked to meet with Judge Peter Lauriat in a sidebar.
Following the sidebar, Sullivan asked what role Berger played in executing the search warrant.
Berger said that his job was to assist Trooper DeLucia in collecting evidence.
Berger said that numerous people entered the house before he did. When he arrived at 7:40 p.m., Berger said he waited on Fuller Road until crime scene services finished its investigation in the house.
"What are you waiting for?" Sullivan asked.
"Crime scene services does their job," Berger said.
"Did you see crime scene services go into the Fujita house?" Sullivan asked.
There was some confusion over the questions and answers between Sullivan and Berger at this point.
Berger said he saw crime scene services go into the house, but didn't know how they gained access.
The witness estimated that he waited outside the house for about two hours while crime scene services completed the job.
Berger testified that he directed Det. Cohen do conduct a canvas of the neighborhood once the search team arrived and Cohen was no longer needed to secure the property.
Berger said that at some point Cohen reported the results of his canvassing back to him. Berger said that the conversation he had with Cohen about the canvassing could have led to further investigation.
Sullivan then requested to meet with the judge in a sidebar conference.
After the sidebar, Berger testified that the BOLO mentioned earlier was issued at about 2 p.m.
Berger testified that when the vehicle was located at 83 Stonybrook Road in Framingham around 7 p.m. on July 4, the address was known to him because Phil and Joyce Saba, who lived at 83 Stonybrook Road in Framingham, picked up Tomo Fujita from the Wayland Police Station that afternoon.
Berger testified that at 7:04 p.m., he was notified that the gold Honda CRV was located at the Saba residence.
When someone responded to the house after the vehicle was located, Sullivan asked, did Berger learn that the defendant was also there?
"You don't even ask if the defendant had been located?" Sullivan asked.
Berger testified that he did not ask and trusted the officers who responded to the Framingham residence to communicate if the defendant was there.
"The first time you're informed that the defendant was there was 2 o'clock in the morning?" Sullivan asked.
Berger said he found out some time by 1:30 a.m. that the defendant was at the Framingham address.
Berger testified that an unmarked police car was posted outside the Framingham house from the time officers responded to the BOLO announcement and the arrest of Fujita at about 2 a.m.
Jumping back to a search of Water Row, Sullivan asked Berger about the knife he said was found there.
"That knife was tested and observed and it had nothing to do with this case?" Sullivan asked
"Correct," Berger said.
Berger's testimony ended at that point and Phillip Saba was called to the stand.
11:35 a.m. -- Resuming testimony, Berger talked about his activities on Sunday Aug. 7, 2011, which included he and DeLucia traveling among "certain points" that were relevant in the case to determine distance and time.
They traveled from:
- 83 Stonybrook Road in Framingham to Natick Mall (2.6 miles and 6 minutes by car).
- From the Natick Mall to 108 W. Plain Street (2.4 miles and 5 minutes)
- From 108 W. Plain Street to Wayland Town Beach (2,275 feet and less than 1 minute)
- From 108 W. Plain St. to Water Row (5.1 miles and nine minutes)
Berger said there is some variability in that trip from 108 W. Plan St. to Water Row based on traffic and red lights. Berger said his fastest trip between the two points was probably on July 4 when he estimated that he traveled that distance in "about four minutes."
Berger said there were multiple possible paths between Water Row and 108 W. Plain St.
McGovern asked Berger to mark locations -- the Natick Mall, 108 W. Plain St., the clearing on Water Row where Astley's body was found -- on a couple of maps she presented to him.
Berger than pointed out the routes that he traveled in order to record distances and times.
Berger said the route he measured between 108 W. Plain St., and Water Row was from West Plain Street to Mitchell Street to King Street to Main Street (Route 27) to Water Row.
Berger testified that that particular route would take the the driver over a bridge on Route 27 that traverses the Sudbury River. Berger said the water of the river is "within 10 feet of the street" under the bridge.
Cross-examination began at 11:35 a.m.
10:52 a.m. -- Jamie Berger is a detective sergeant with the Wayland Police Department and responded to the Wayland Town Beach when he received a call at about 4 a.m. on July 4 about a missing person.
He said he arrived at the town beach at about 6:20 a.m. and soon asked everyone to move their cars away from Astley's Jeep. Berger said he noticed the windows were down and the driver's seat was very close to the steering wheel.
Berger said he learned that Malcolm Astley, Lauren Astley's father, had collected a computer and a bag of possessions from his daughter's Jeep. Berger said he obtained those items from Malcolm Astley and secured them in his cruiser.
The Jeep, Berger said, was towed to the Wayland Police Department at about 2 p.m. on July 4.
Going back to Berger's time at Wayland Town Beach, the detective sergeant testified that he immediately left and responded to Water Row when he heard a report about a body having been found at about 7:20 a.m. on July 4.
"I observed what appeared to be a body in the water," Berger said, of arriving at Water Row.
Berger said he "initiated a chain of command," to communicate all information through a single individual, which was Berger in this case.
He said he spoke by phone with Trooper Tony DeLucia of the Massachusetts State Police and discussed what should occur next in the investigation.
During his time at Water Row, Berger said he assisted the state police and crime scene services, until he left just before noon that day.
McGovern asked about Astley's dress when she was recovered from the water.
Berger said her dress was up around her shoulders and covering her neck. Berger said that someone moved the dress and he saw a "large wound to her neck."
"That was the first time I'd seen that," Berger said.
Berger said he saw Priscilla Antion when he arrived, sitting in an ambulance. (Antion is the woman who testified that she discovered Astley's body during a bike ride on Water Row).
Just before noon, Berger said he and DeLucia left Water Row and went to 108 W. Plain St., to speak with Nathaniel Fujita.
Tomo Fujita, the defendant's father, opened the door, Berger said. The defendant was not home at the time and Berger said one vehicle, a white Toyota Rav 4, was in the driveway.
Berger said he and DeLucia spoke with Tomo Fujita for about 20 minutes and looked for the defendant's cellular phone. Tomo Fujita led the officers up to the defendant's bedroom to look for the phone.
"I just looked, I didn't touch anything," Berger said, adding that the defendant's phone was not located.
Berger added that in Nathaniel Fujita's bedroom, he saw a hole in the wall next to the bed and that the room was a little messy, but not terribly so.
Berger said that they asked Tomo Fujita for help locating his son, but the father did not provide any. Tomo Fujita did send his younger son, who was home at the time, down to a neighbor's house, and the father went to the police station with the officers.
Tomo Fujita spent a couple of hours in the detectives' interview room at the Wayland Police station.
During that time, "We were attempting to locate Nathaniel Fujita and the vehicle he was in," Berger said, explaining that he wasn't completely focused on Tomo Fujita while he was there.
Berger said he called other police departments in an effort to locate Nathaniel Fujita. Berger said a "ping" was also conducted on Beth Fujita's, the defendant's mother's, cell phone.
A BOLO (Be On The Look Out) for a specific vehicle was issued to the whole northeast region, Berger said.
At 7:04 p.m., Berger said the Framingham Police Department contacted the Wayland Police Department. Det. Ruth Backman and Trooper Kevin Baker left immediately to respond to the address where the vehicle had been located.
Berger said he responded to 83 Stonybrook Road in Framingham at about 1:30 a.m., where he placed Nathaniel Fujita under arrest.
Initially, however, Backman and Baker responded to the call from Framingham, while Berger said he and DeLucia were headed back to the Fujita residence to execute the search warrant.
Berger said he was at the residence throughout the execution of the warrant.
After crime scene services finished at the Fujita home, Berger said, the investigators were given the go-ahead to enter the home. At which point, they collected "numerous pieces of evidence."
When the search concluded at about 1:30 a.m., Berger said he and DeLucia then went to the Stonybrook Road residence in Framingham. He said he believed the vehicle on which a BOLO had been issued, a gold Honda CRV, had already been towed from the scene.
Berger said officers knocked on the door and Beth Fujita, the defendant's mother, answered within about 15 seconds. She told officers that Fujita was upstairs in a bedroom.
When they opened the door to the bedroom, the room was dark, Berger said, and Fujita appeared to be sleeping in bed.
"As soon as we turned the light on, he arose from his sleep," Berger said. "He had shorts on, I don't believe he had a shirt on.
"I told him who I was and why I was there," Berger said. "I explained to him that he was under arrest for murder."
Fujita was compliant, Berger said, and put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed without resistance.
Berger said Fujita was led down the stairs barefoot, and at the bottom of the stairs DeLucia helped him put on sneakers.
A Framingham cruiser was called because that department has jurisdiction over their town, Berger said. Additionally, Wayland did not have a marked cruiser available.
Berger himself booked Fujita into the computer system, he testified, back at the Wayland PD.
Changing topics, Berger next looked at a couple of photos shown to him by McGovern, that Berger testified depicted the red bag he obtained from Malcolm Astley (it had been in Astley's Jeep), as well as a receipt from Red Mango.
The Red Mango receipt showed a time stamp of 3:16 p.m.
In discussing his duties with the investigation since Fujita's arrest, Berger said he spoke with employees at Store344 and the GNC store clerk on July 6.
Then on July 8, Berger said, he was involved in a search of Water Row and along Route 27, though he did not take part in the search itself.
The July 8 search involved more than 40 law enforcement officers from state police and municipal departments, Berger said. The Massachusetts State Police ran the search that day.
METLEC (Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council) provided officers for the search.
Berger said the search took hours and involved a dive team. The teams were looking through the trees and brush for any evidence.
"A green and silver locket was found in the marshy area where Lauren Astley's body was found," Berger said.
Looking at a number of photos, Berger described that they showed Water Row blocked off by law enforcement, the Sudbury River, the clearing where Astley's body was found, a paper bag with a green and silver locket on it, a paper bag with the locket and ruler by it, and a paper bag with the locket open and a ruler next to it.
After showing the photos to the jury, McGovern showed Berger the actual green and silver locket that was recovered on Water Row.
Berger said his duties with the investigation continued on July 11, when he spoke with four individuals to see whether anyone could identify the locket.
In the coming weeks, Berger said he spoke with numerous individuals including Scott Parseghian, the dean of students at Wayland High, and multiple other people.
Berger said he spoke with the Trinity College football coach and assistant coaches via phone.
Berger said he sought video footage from BMW of Sudbury and also video surveillance footage from the Natick Mall, "who provided us with video footage of Lauren and Nathaniel."
Because of observations of the gold Honda CRV, Berger said he was asked to collect leaves, berries and twigs from Water Row. He did so and sent the items to a lab.
Berger said he did not participate in the July 12 search of the Fujita home, but he did participate in another search of Water Row, the third, at some point.
"There was an additional search of the clearing ... looking for other evidence," Berger said. The state dive team was using sonar equipment in the water, Berger continued.
"There was a knife that was recovered, but I don't believe it was recovered there," Berger said.
On Friday, Aug. 5, Berger testified, he looked into hiring a contractor for assistance in searching the storm drains from 108 W. Plain St., to the Wayland Town Beach.
Berger said they were looking in the drains for Astley's Jeep keys, cell phones and any "edged" weapon.
Berger said the checked every storm drain -- "there are 13" -- from Fuller and West Plain Street, to Grace Road and down to Wayland Town Beach.
"The last drain that I checked ... a set of keys [was found]," Berger said. The keys were attached to a lanyard with Elon University written on it.
At the mention of the college their daughter planned to attend, both Malcolm Astley and Mary Dunne, her parents, grew emotional.
After showing photos of the drains and keychain to jurors, the actual set of keys was displayed. At that point, a morning recess was called. Court will resume at about 11:15 a.m.
9:52 a.m. -- Continuing the question, Sullivan asked whether two particular neighbors heard or saw anything, which Cohen said they did not.
He asked about other neighbors that Cohen spoke with and Cohen testified that he was unable to find anyone who heard or saw "anything unusual" the night before.
Sullivan asked about the home directly next door to the Fujita's home, 112 W. Plain St., and whether an upstairs window looked out over the Fujita home. Cohen said he didn't notice. Cohen said he spoke with someone at the Hastings home.
When Cohen spoke with Henry Hastings, of 112 W. Plain St., a second time a few days later, Cohen said he told him later that he had heard something, but McGovern objected when Sullivan asked Cohen what Hastings said he had heard.
Sullivan questioned whether the Fujita house was secure when Cohen left the house following the execution of the search warrant.
Cohen said he didn't know and Sullivan appeared incredulous that Cohen said he didn't notice a doorknob had been sawed out of a door.
McGovern redirected the questioning to ask whether Cohen located people on his canvassing who were home at the time of the canvassing, but not during the time in question.
Cohen said he did find people.
Sullivan, upon redirection, asked how many people said they were home at the time in question.
"At least four, I believe," Cohen said.
McGovern then redirected again, asking whether some of the people were home for part of the time frame in question, but not home for other points in the time frame.
Cohen said there were.
Sullivan asked another follow-up question.
"Of the four people you located who said they were home during this time period, where were they located?" Sullivan asked, wondering about the time period Cohen provided of 6:30 p.m. on July 3 until 7 a.m. on July 4.
Cohen said he found individuals at 102 W. Plain St., 10 Fuller Road, 14 Fuller Road and 18 Fuller Road, who said they were home at the time.
Cohen has left the stand and Det. Sgt. Jamie Berger has been called.
9:38 a.m. -- Det. Christopher Cohen returned to the stand at 9:13 a.m.
On Wednesday, Cohen testified that he backed his cruiser into the driveway in front of the garage, facing Fuller Street. He said today he remained in the cruiser until about 7:40 p.m., when investigators arrived to execute the search warrant.
After he conducted the neighborhood canvassing he mentioned Wednesday (which took about an hour and occurred while the search warrant was being executed the night of July 4), Cohen said he stood in Fuller Street, along with other officers to secure the area.
Cohen said he entered the Fujita house after the search of the home had been concluded. He testified that he didn't remember when he went into the house or why.
Later that night, Cohen returned to the Wayland Police Department. There, he testified, he saw Fujita brought into the police station in the early morning hours of Tuesday, July 5.
Cohen said he was at the station until 3 a.m. on July 5.
McGovern asked what else Cohen did in respect to the case.
"As the evidence officer I would take in evidence to the station and secure it," Cohen said. "I received DVDs that contained videos, photographs. I believe there was a set of keys and some personal property [of Astley's]."
In terms of following up on his July 4 canvassing, Cohen said he spoke with a resident at 10 Fuller Road, Jean Sapere, on July 7.
Cohen said he also spoke with Henry Hastings of 112 W. Plain Street in relation to the case.
Sullivan's cross-examination began at 9:19 a.m.
Sullivan asked about Cohen's job securing the Fujita residence on the afternoon of July 4. Sullivan asked whether Cohen knew that Tomo Fujita, the defendant's father, at the station.
Cohen testified that he saw Tomo Fujita at the police station before he went to the Fujita residence at 2:05 p.m. on July 4.
Sullivan asked Cohen about his activities securing the area. Cohen said the garage doors were open when he arrived, so he went inside the garage to check for a person.
"The reason you went in there was to see if you could see anything before the warrant was issued," Sullivan said. "Is that fair to say?"
"To see if there was a person in there," Cohen responded.
Sullivan asked whether both Cohen and Sudbury Lt. Scott Nix entered the garage, to which Cohen responded yes.
"Didn't Lt. Nix indicate to you that there was a brown-reddish stain?" Sullivan said. "Isn't that evidence?"
"Not to me it wasn't," Cohen responded.
"As a detective ... in the training as a detective, that didn't seem to be possibly relevant in this case?" Sullivan continued.
"Not at the time," Cohen said.
Moving on to the young child who approached Cohen while he waited for the warrant team, Cohen testified that he didn't know the child was Fujita's younger brother.
Cohen said no one else approached the house in the five hours he spent watching the home before the warrant team arrived. Once the team arrived, Cohen explained again, he spent an hour talking with neighbors about what they might have heard or seen the night before.
"During this canvassing, you weren't able to locate anybody who heard anything suspicious?" Sullivan asked. "You weren't able to locate anybody who saw anything suspicious?"
Cohen responded that he was not.
Cohen said he went to 10 Fuller St., first.
"One of the reasons you went there was the proximity to the 108 W. Plain Street location?" Sullivan said.
"Yes," Cohen said.
Cohen said he spoke with two individuals at 10 Fuller St.
Sullivan walked the Cohen through his path to three houses that he said he visited during his canvassing.
"You were unable to locate anybody who heard anything unusual that night?" Sullivan asked, and Cohen responded that was true.
The attroneys are meeting with the judge in sidebar. Testimony will resume momentarily.
9:05 a.m. -- The court gallery is rather full today. The defendant Nathaniel Fujita, has entered and is wearing a gray suit and purple shirt today. Neither the jury nor the judge have yet entered courtroom.
Det. Christopher Cohen of the Wayland Police Department is set to take the stand to start the day.