Navila Nunez and her mother were in their Mattapan apartment one August day when there was a knock at their door. It was their neighbor from across the hall, Eldrick Broom, who had noticed their keys still in the lock. Nunez’s mother had accidentally left them outside.
“ ‘Don’t leave the keys out, because somebody can get in and do whatever,’” Broom told the women, according to Nunez’s testimony in Suffolk Superior Court Tuesday. “ ‘Be aware. Be cautious.’ ”
A few months later, Broom broke into the women’s two-bedroom apartment, according to police, then raped and killed Nunez’s mother, Rosanna Camilo De Nunez, 34. According to Suffolk prosecutors, sometime in the early afternoon of Nov. 21, 2011, Broom strangled Camilo with a computer cord and a sock and left her nearly naked body on the floor.
Navila Nunez, who was a 16-year-old high school junior at the time, found her mother later that day when she got home from West Roxbury Academy.
Now 18, Nunez was poised on the stand during the first day of testimony in Broom’s murder trial and spoke clearly and calmly. Between questions, she often glared at Broom. Dressed in a dark suit, Broom, 29, showed little expression during her testimony.
The brutality of the attack unnerved residents of Camilo’s apartment building, just outside the busy Mattapan Square area, where many tenants had hoped to find a safe haven.
Nunez was one of five witnesses Tuesday, on the first day of testimony, which was at times graphic. Camilo was strangled so forcefully that her larynx was crushed, prosecutors have said. Prosecutors displayed a photo of the victim as she was found, naked from the waist down, her tank top pushed high over her brassiere. Janell Jimenez, one of the EMTs who responded that day, recalled seeing a teddy bear lying next to Camilo.
“I’ll never forget it,” Jimenez said.
The prosecution’s case centers on DNA evidence found under Camilo’s fingernails and from semen on her body that prosecutors say is a match to Broom’s.
Broom’s lawyer, Norman Zalkind, has argued that Camilo and Broom were in a consensual sexual relationship and had been together the day before her body was discovered.
Zalkind said Broom will take the stand in his own defense, which is uncommon in murder trials. A defendant does not have to prove he is innocent; the burden of proof is on the prosecution.
Camilo, who had three children, had come to Boston from the Dominican Republic to find medical care for her youngest son, who was 18 months old at the time of her death. His medical condition has not been disclosed.
In Santo Domingo, Camilo had a large family and strong social connections. She worked for the Dominican government, arranging the schedules of the country’s president. Her father, Ruben Camilo, is a prominent radio personality in the Dominican Republic.
But in Boston, she had few friends, according to testimony. Her life revolved around taking care of her son, who met weekly with an occupational therapist. On weekends, Nunez said she and her daughter would stay in the apartment together and were not friends with any of their neighbors.
They kept in touch with Nunez’s father, Richard Nunez, through online phone calls. They talked every day, said Richard Nunez, who testified Tuesday, before his daughter.
Camilo spoke very little English and could not carry on a conversation with an English speaker, her husband and daughter said.
Other witnesses, including a social worker and the occupational therapist who worked with Camilo’s young son, also said that her English skills were limited.
The social worker was one of the last people to speak to Camilo Nov. 21. The two women talked by phone to set up a home visit with the occupational therapist. The therapist arrived in Mattapan at about 1:30 p.m. and rang the apartment. Camilo did not respond.
In his cross-examination of witnesses, Zalkind tried to establish that Camilo could speak some English, in an attempt to show the jury that she could have found a way to communicate with Broom and develop a sexual relationship with him.
During cross-examination of Richard Nunez, Zalkind asked him how long he and his wife had been apart.
Ten months, Nunez replied.
The Suffolk prosecutor, Gretchen Lundgren, then asked Nunez why he stayed behind in the Dominican Republic while his wife went to Boston.
Nunez, a physical education teacher, said he had to take care of their other son, who was 11 at the time, and tend to their home in Santo Domingo.
“I have to work to feed my family,” Richard Nunez said.
During Navila Nunez’s testimony, she said that Broom was never invited into their apartment. He occasionally said hello to them when he passed them in the hallway, she said.
“We would just be polite back and say hi,” Nunez said. “That’s it.”