WOBURN — On the day his ex-girlfriend’s battered body was pulled from a Wayland swamp, Nathaniel Fujita sat on his cousin’s bed at her Framingham home and assured her that the police officers searching his house would not find anything connecting him to the slaying, according to court testimony Friday.
“He said, ‘They’re not going to find a weapon there, if that’s what you mean,’” Caroline Saba, 22, testified in Middlesex Superior Court during Fujita’s trial on first-degree murder and other charges.
As Saba recounted their conversation, Fujita hung his head in the courtroom. He is accused of luring 18-year-old Lauren Astley to his Wayland home, telling her to park out of sight, and then beating, strangling, and slashing her to death on July 3, 2011.
Prosecutors say he was furious and humiliated that his high school sweetheart had broken up with him; Fujita’s defense attorney says he was suffering a psychotic episode.
An hour after the killing, according to prosecutors, Fujita called his cousin and asked her to hang out, but she had plans. Saba testified Friday that during the conversation in her bedroom the following day, she asked Fujita how he could have called her the night Astley died.
“Having done what. . . . I was beginning to realize he had done, I was asking how he could have possibly called me to hang out,” Saba testified. “He said that he needed — he just needed somebody to hang out with. He needed to get his mind off of it.”
Saba also testified that she asked Fujita how Astley’s car ended up at Wayland town beach, more than 5 miles from where her body was found and nearly half a mile from Fujita’s home.
“I just asked him how her car had gotten to the town beach,” said Saba. “He said, ‘It was me.’ ”
Saba’s testimony was halting, and she frequently said she could not remember events and conversations.
Both Caroline Saba and her father, Philip, testified that Fujita, now 20, was depressed, quiet, and withdrawn in the months leading up to the killing.
Caroline Saba spent May and June of 2011 working at the Fujita home, and said her cousin, who was previously very popular, never saw friends and mostly lay on the couch or went to the gym.
His mother was worried, Saba said, and asked her to surreptitiously read Fujita’s text messages with Astley. In late June, Saba said, she saw texts from Astley asking why Fujita was not responding to her, and why he was being hostile.
But neither Philip nor Caroline Saba noticed anything unusual about Fujita’s behavior in the days before Astley’s death. On July 2, the day before the slaying, Caroline Saba testified that she and Fujita went to a beach on Cape Cod, where Fujita joked, played catch with a football, and smoked marijuana. They got ice cream and went shopping, she said, and then drove home.
On July 3, a few hours before prosecutors say Fujita killed Astley, he attended a family barbecue at the Saba home. Caroline Saba testified that the two watched television and played a keyboard together before he left at about 5:30 p.m., saying he might be back.
As he was leaving, she said, Fujita asked if she would come with him to the Natick Mall, where he stopped on his way back to Wayland. Saba said no.
Prosecutors allege that Fujita killed Astley just after 7 p.m. in his family’s garage. Her body was found by a bird-watcher in a marsh off Water Row early on the morning of July 4.
Later that day, Philip Saba testified, Fujita arrived with his mother at the Saba home.
“They looked run-down, really tired,” Saba said. “They looked kind of despondent.”
Saba said that Fujita went into the living room to read the Bible with his aunt.
Fujita was arrested at the Saba home about 2 a.m. on July 5, after police had finished searching his family’s home in Wayland, according to law enforcement testimony.
He faces charges of first-degree murder, two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and one count of assault and battery.
At the end of the day Friday, Hannah Blahut, who called Astley her best friend, began testifying, but was only on the stand for about 40 minutes before court was adjourned. Her testimony will continue on Monday.
After court was adjourned, Fujita’s mother broke down weeping.