When police searched Nathaniel Fujita’s Wayland home hours after the body of his former girlfriend was pulled from a marsh, they found soaking wet clothing stuffed in a crawl space and blood in the kitchen and all over the garage, according to court testimony Tuesday.
Later, when a cyber specialist searched Fujita’s computer, she found a Google search about how to get rid of fingerprints and evidence that Fujita had joined a Facebook group called “Have you seen Lauren Astley,” his former high school sweetheart.
Fujita is on trial facing first-degree murder and other charges at Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn. He is accused of killing Astley, 18, on July 3, 2011, after she broke up with him in their senior year at Wayland High School.
Prosecutors say Fujita lured her to his house, told her to park out of sight, and then beat, strangled, and slashed her to death in his home’s detached garage. He allegedly dumped her body in a marsh off Water Row in Wayland, where it was found the next day.
Fujita’s lawyer, William Sullivan, has said his client was having a brief psychotic episode at the time of the killing.
In the days leading up to the slaying, Fujita’s Internet activity was unremarkable, according to an examination of his laptop conducted by Melissa Marino, a digital evidence investigator with the Middlesex district attorney’s office.
But according to Marino, at around 1 a.m. on July 4, the day after Astley was killed, Fujita did a Google search with the question, “Does water erase fingerprints?”
At 4:23 a.m., said Marino, Fujita looked at pictures that appear to be of himself, shirtless, posing in athletic shorts. He also joined a Facebook group dedicated to finding Astley, Marino testified.
State Trooper Anthony DeLucia, the lead investigator in the case, said that during a search of Fujita’s home later that day, he found a pair of wet, muddy sneakers tucked into a black bag in a basement closet.
In a crawl space in Fujita’s bedroom, DeLucia found another pair of sneakers covered in what appeared to be blood, a trash bag with two sweatshirts and a T-shirt, and a couple of empty beer cans.
The clothing was wet, and some pockets were full of mud, said Jennifer Montgomery, a forensic scientist at the State Police crime lab.
Montgomery testified that she found blood stains in the Fujitas’ garage and traces of blood in the kitchen and on the sink. She also found bloodstains on the back seat of the car that Fujita drove, she testified.
When Fujita was arrested early in the morning on July 5, he had abrasions on his right hand, knee, and upper thigh, Montgomery said.
Much of the physical evidence of the case was shown to the jury on Tuesday.
When prosecutor Lisa McGovern held aloft the black bungee cord that was found tangled in Astley’s hair when they pulled her body from the marsh, Fujita put his head down, and Astley’s mother began shaking.
McGovern then showed the jury a wedge sandal that was found in the water near Astley’s body, and the spaghetti-strap leopard print dress Astley was wearing the day she was killed.
Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.