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Thursday's Testimony: Keys In a Storm Drain, Fujita's Behavior at July 3 Party and His Arrest

Jurors learned Thursday that Nathaniel Fujita was cooperative when officers arrived to arrest him for the murder of Lauren Astley.

Testimony Thursday in Nathaniel Fujita's murder trial led the jury through the defendant's July 5 arrest as well as his time spent at a family party just hours before prosecutors say he killed 18-year-old Lauren Astley.

Fujita sat quietly between his lead attorney, William Sullivan, and assisting attorney, Sabrina Bonanno, dressed Thursday in a dark gray suit and light purple shirt.

As he has during most of the trial, Fujita sat quietly throughout the testimonies of Wayland Police Det. Christopher Cohen and Wayland Det. Sgt. Jamie Berger.

When his uncle, Phillip Saba, took the stand in the afternoon, however, Fujita dropped his head and appeared to wipe his eyes with a tissue as Saba recounted time spent at family gatherings and connecting with his nephew over football.

Saba's testimony, still in progress when court adjourned for the day Thursday, indicated that he knew his nephew well throughout his growing up years. Saba described having a short conversation with Fujita at a party on July 3, 2011, just a couple of hours before prosecutors say Fujita lured Astley, his former girlfriend, to his Wayland home where he strangled her and slashed her throat before dumping her body in a Wayland marsh.

Fujita's attorney has argued that Fujita, now 20, suffered a "brief psychotic episode" at the time of the murder, but Prosecutor Lisa McGovern has argued that Fujita both planned and methodically carried out the murder of his Wayland High School classmate.

Fujita's Arrest Described

Also on Thursday, jurors learned that Fujita was cooperative and compliant when officers arrived at the Saba home in Framingham to arrest him at about 2 a.m. on July 5.

Berger said he and other officers arrived at the Saba residence on July 5 and found Fujita sleeping in an upstairs bedroom.

"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 continued. "I explained to him that he was under arrest for murder."

Berger said that Fujita complied with officers and was handcuffed according to protocol. At the bottom of the stairs, Berger said, another officer help Fujita put on a pair of sneakers.

Since his arrest on July 5, 2011, Fujita has been held without bail.

Detective Work After the Murder

Berger also testified Thursday that he took part in or himself conducted numerous interviews and searches related to the case, including a search of 13 storm drains between the Fujita residence and Wayland Town Beach, where Astley's Jeep was found the night she went missing.

In one of those drains, Berger said, police recovered a set of keys attached to an Elon University lanyard. At the mention of the college their daughter planned to attend, Astley's parents, Malcolm Astley and Mary Dunne, shook with quiet tears.

Sullivan, on cross-examining Berger, questioned the detective sergeant's communication during the investigation as well as his awareness of certain elements of the investigation, particularly what items were retrieved from Astley's Jeep and whether fingerprints had been collected from various pieces of evidence.

Berger responded that he did not have knowledge of fingerprint testing in the case and said that could have fallen under the purview of State Trooper Tony DeLucia.

DeLucia is on the list of potential witnesses in the case, but has not yet been called to testify.

The day began with Cohen continuing his testimony that began on Tuesday. For a full recap of Cohen's testimony, as well as full recaps of the rest of the day's testimony, see the Wayland Murder Trial Live Blog from Feb. 21.

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