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Mother of Wayland victim describes a disturbing scene

Mary Dunn said she last saw her daughter, Lauren Astley, the day before she was slain.POOL PHOTO

WOBURN — Twice Mary Dunne’s daughter, Lauren Astley, came to her crying at the graduation party: her former boyfriend, Nathaniel Fujita, would not leave her alone.

At first, Dunne tried a warning.

“I told Nathaniel that he needed to settle down,’’ Dunne said Thursday in Middlesex Superior Court. “He and Lauren were no longer dating. That this was her graduation party, and she deserved to ­enjoy herself. I told him if there were any more complaints, I would be asking him to leave the party.”

But her daughter returned, crying again, Dunne said, so she called Fujita’s mother to come pick him up. She told Fujita she wanted him to leave, and it was the last time they spoke.


Fujita, now 20, is accused of beating, strangling, and slashing Astley to death on July 3, 2011, a month after the two graduated from Wayland High School. Prosecutors say he was angry that she broke up with him; his lawyer says Fujita was suffering a brief psychotic episode.

Nathaniel Fujita (right foreground) slumped over as the image of Lauren Astley was shown at his murder trial.POOL PHOTO

Dunne was the final witness for the prosecution, which rested its case Thursday morning. Defense lawyer William Sullivan called as his first witness Fujita’s aunt, Joyce Saba, who testified that mental illness runs in Fujita’s family.

Throughout Dunne’s testimony, Fujita sat doubled over, his head down on the desk in front of him.

Dunne described her daughter as a singer from the time she was a little girl, first in a church choir at the age of 4 and later in an all-
female a capella group.

Astley was on the varsity tennis team, played the French horn, was active in church, and took three trips to New Orleans to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. She had a tight group of friends, whom she saw often.

“She lived with her father in Wayland and me in Weston and spent a great deal of time at the homes of her friends,” Dunne said. “Lauren had a lot of adoptive families.”


Dunne did not know that her daughter had briefly gotten back together with Fujita ­before breaking up for good during their senior year, she testified.

“She wouldn’t have wanted me to know that,” Dunne said.

As Dunne spoke, Astley’s ­senior portrait smiled at her from the screen in the courtroom. Dunne’s voice was raw and her whole body shook as she identified her daughter: “This is my only child, Lauren Astley.”

The last time Dunne saw Astley alive, she said, was the day before her death.

“I saw her at the mall on ­July 2,” she said, her voice tight. “We had a small meal ­together, and then I walked her back to her job.”

When Astley died, Dunne said, she was just 5 feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds.

Dunne looked at Fujita only once, to identify him for the ­record. When she stepped down, lawyers from both sides spoke quietly with the judge at sidebar, and Fujita sobbed loudly in an otherwise silent courtroom.

Fujita’s aunt testified that her nephew suffered depression in the spring and summer 2011 and that it worsened in the weeks leading up to the killing. She said she told family members to try to buck him up by inviting him out.

“Nathaniel was withdrawn and seemed depressed,” Saba said. “There was an extreme change in his behavior” ­between the summers of 2010 and 2011.


Until 2011, she testified, she would have described ­Fujita as “sweet, honest, athletic, quiet.” But during the spring of his senior year, he stopped going out with friends and ­being social.

Two of Fujita’s great uncles, Saba said, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. One uncle, who Saba said had been a ­police officer, believed that the CIA was listening to him through the television.

Fujita’s younger sister was hospitalized for eight days in a child psychiatric unit in 2010, Saba testified.

On cross-examination by prosecutor Lisa McGovern, ­Saba said that although Fujita did not do much during the day in the weeks leading up to the killing, he went to the gym regularly and held a landscaping job.

Sullivan also cross-
examined the state’s chief medical examiner, who conducted the autopsy on Astley’s body. On Wednesday, Henry Nields testified that Lauren was killed by a combination of strangulation and incised wounds to her neck. Her death probably took minutes, Nields said Wednesday, and it is likely she was not immediately incapacitated.

On cross-examination, Nields said he found no defensive wounds on Astley’s hands. He testified that there was no way to determine medically whether Astley regained consciousness after being strangled.

Fujita faces charges of first-degree murder, two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and one count of assault and battery.

Judge Peter Lauriat told the jury Thursday that evidence in the case is likely to close Friday or Monday.


Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com.