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Trial in ’09 knife slaying of Salem woman begins

Jury selection starts in slaying of pregnant Salem woman

Suspect Peter Ronchi

Suspect Peter Ronchi

SALEM — It was a gruesome cameo in what was an otherwise routine day of jury selection in the trial of a former Marblehead man accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend and unborn baby.

Just moments after 11 prospective jurors were sent home for the day by Essex Superior Court Judge David A. Lowy, a white T-shirt, heavily stained in what appeared to be dried blood, was brought in to the courtroom. Draped over a large piece of flat cardboard and sealed in clear plastic labeled ‘‘Evidence,’’ the T- shirt also appeared to have several inch-long gashes through its middle.

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Outside the court room, the lead prosecutor, Assistant Essex District Attorney Jean Curran, declined to comment on whether the T-shirt had belonged to Yuliya Galperina, 42, a mother of two who was nearly nine months pregnant with a third child when she was stabbed to death with a hunting knife in 2009 in her Salem Heights apartment, police say, by Peter Ronchi, her boyfriend at the time.

Ronchi’s trial on two counts of first-degree murder, one for ­Galperina, and one for her unborn son, who was just weeks from being born, got underway Tuesday in Essex Superior Court in Salem with the start of jury ­selection.

Eight women and three men, diverse in appearance and age, were chosen from a pool of about 72 potential jurors. Jury selection is slated to continue Wednesday until 16 potential jurors are chosen.

At one point Tuesday, 15 poten­tial jurors had been ­selected, but several were dismissed after further discussions among Lowy, prosecutors, and ­attorneys for ­Ronchi. One woman was dismissed after shaking her head and whispering no when Lowy quietly asked if she would be able to put emotion aside upon hearing the facts of the case.

Ronchi, 49, and looking slender, wore glasses and was dressed in a dark gray suit, white tube socks, and black loafers. He sat quietly during jury selection with his elbows on his armrests, at times slightly swiveling his chair from side to side.

Some of the potential jurors stared at Ronchi briefly, while others looked down at their laps.

The trial is expected to take between four and five weeks, said John Gregory Swomley, one of Ronchi’s three lawyers. Swomley declined to comment Tuesday on his team’s strategy for the upcoming trial.

Authorities say Ronchi stabbed Galperina to death in May 2009 in her apartment ­because he was upset after she allegedly told him that the baby was not his. Her other children, then 3 and 8 years old, were home at the time of the stabbing, but were not hurt.

Ronchi, a massage therapist, fled to Connecticut, where he left his car at a Walmart, bought a bicycle, and rode it to a police station, where he turned himself in, prosecutors said at his arraignment in 2009.

Katheleen Conti can be reached at kconti@globe.com.
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