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Mattapan man testifies he was in car when girlfriend was shot

In an emotional appearance at a first-degree murder trial in a Boston courtroom, a tearful Mattapan man on Wednesday described the moment when his longtime girlfriend was shot to death as she sat in a car beside him.

Mark Finley was the leadoff witness in the Suffolk Superior Court trial of Christopher Jackson, who is accused of killing 25-year-old Keosha Gilmore for spurning his advances, according to Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office.

Finley, who struggled to control his emotions and frequently dabbed at his eyes, recalled the night of Feb. 19, 2012, when he and Gilmore sat in his Cadillac, parked in his usual spot on a Mattapan street.

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Finley and Gilmore both worked for Radio Shack but at different stores. After leaving his job in Boston, Finley picked up Gilmore at her job at the Dedham Mall, then drove back to Alabama Street, where he had grown up and where he and Gilmore had recently lived with Finley’s mother.

Finley said as they sat in the car around 9 p.m., chatting, he lowered the driver’s seat to a reclining position while Gilmore sat upright in the passenger seat beside him.

“It was a long day. I was laying back, comfortable,’’ Finley testified. “I heard a loud noise. And glass shattering.’’

Finley said he instantly recognized the noise as the sound of a gunshot and tried to drive away but could not get the car to start. He jumped out and immediately realized Gilmore was not joining him, so he rushed inside and pleaded with his mother to call Boston police.

He rushed back to the street. “I didn’t see nothing, nobody,’’ he said. “Just her. In the car. Not moving.’’

Fighting to control his emotions, Finley recalled pulling the 25-year-old Gilmore out of his car.

“I grabbed her, to hold her,’’ Finley said between soft sobs. “And then I kissed her.’’

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Finley said Gilmore, whom he had dated for years, had been shot in the head. He rode in the ambulance with her to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Prosecutors contend the 25-year-old Jackson targeted Gilmore because she would not return his affection toward her, and that he took advantage of a long friendship that began in their adolescence to put himself where he knew she would be.

Finley testified he saw a figure wearing a black hooded sweatshirt run from the shooting scene, cross Alabama Street, and run into the backyard of a home that abuts the New Calvary Cemetery. Conley’s office alleges that the murder weapon and latex gloves were found in the cemetery and were later matched to Jackson through DNA analysis.

Defense attorney Kevin Mitchell told jurors in his opening statement that Jackson shot Gilmore. But the defense attorney said Jackson’s actions were not those of a cold-blooded killer but those of a mentally ill man who created a fantasy world in which he believed Gilmore was in love with him.

He said that through the years Gilmore, whom Finley said did not have a license, would often call Jackson, asking him to drive her somewhere or take her out to dinner.

“Her boyfriends will always go, but I will always be there for her,’’ Jackson once said, according to Mitchell.

Mitchell urged jurors to listen closely during the trial when a mental health expert testifies. He said the testimony would strongly support the defense claim that mental illness left Jackson unable to know right from wrong.

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John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@ globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.