At a hearing in Middlesex Superior Court Monday, June 11, the lawyer representing Nathaniel Fujita of Wayland sought to suppress evidence in the case, saying there had not been probable cause to serve two warrants in the days following the murder of Lauren Astley.
Fujita is charged with Wayland resident Astley's July 3, 2011, murder. Authorities believe Fujita killed Astley, 18, his ex-girlfriend, at his home, then dumped her body in a marshy area off Water Row in Wayland. The body was discovered on July 4.
On Monday, Fujita's lawyer, William Sullivan, argued before Judge Mitchell Kaplan that there was no probable cause for a July 4 warrant to be given to police to search Fujita's 108 West Plain St. home and his car.
If the two paragraphs Sullivan called into question were removed from the affidavit, Sullivan said he did not believe a judge would have probable cause to execute a search warrant.
Sullivan questioned portions of the affidavit police wrote in seeking the warrant. Police had learned about Fujita's and Astley's relationship through interviews with their friends, though those friends were not named in the affidavit. Because the names were not given, the information was not traceable or credible, Sullivan said.
Sullivan said that when the affidavit notes that Astley's friends said Fujita had been socializing less and had an angry temperment recently, there was no proper sourcing of that information.
Judge Kaplan noted that though the names had not been given, the police knew who the interviewees were, and that they were not anonymous tipsters.
Assistant District Attorney Lisa McGovern argued that Sullivan was taking issue with a small fraction of the affidavit, while the totality of information given provided probable cause for the warrant.
McGovern noted that the totality of information included Fujita being the last known person to have seen Astley before she was reported missing by her father later that night. Fujita told police that Astley had come to his house around 7:20 p.m., they had talked for a few minutes, and then Astley had left, McGovern said.
She also noted that interviews with Astley's and Fujita's fathers, plus three interviews with Fujita (at 7 and 11 p.m. on July 3 and at 7 a.m. on July 4), were backed up by the interviews police conducted with friends of Astley and Fujita.
McGovern also spoke about a red-brown stain that a police officer noticed when Fujita allowed authorities into the home July 3 to look for Astley. Further information included Fujita being said to respond violently when angry, and that he'd punched walls and destroyed the windshield of the family car, McGovern said.
Judge Kaplan asked whether absent the red-brown stain, would the information go beyond reasonable suspicion, and McGovern responded that it was a piece of the puzzle.
Sullivan also argued that there was no need for another search of the Fujita home to be conducted eight days after the murder.
Judge Kaplan asked if police missed evidence whether they are precluded from asking to search the house for a second time.
McGovern noted that police wanted to search the attic of the Fujita house again, as some bloody clothing had been found there in the first search, however Astley's and Fujita's cell phones and the murder weapon had not been found. The police needed the opportunity to go back and lok for those items, she said.
Judge Kaplan said he understood the issues, but did not make a ruling on the motion to suppress evidence. Fujita's next court date is Tuesday, Aug. 7, for a pretrial conference.