Jurors begin deliberations in trial of Matthew Borges, charged with decapitating teenager

Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino’s family members left Salem Superior Court after hearing closing arguments.
Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino’s family members left Salem Superior Court after hearing closing arguments. Mark Lorenz for the Boston Globe

SALEM — In texts and Facebook messages, Mathew Borges told a girl in his class he liked her. But he didn’t like that she was friends with other guys.

Borges accused the girl, Stephanie Soriano, of having a secret relationship with Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino, a fellow student at Lawrence High School, prosecutors said Monday.

“I want you, but I’m thinking about all the guy friends you have. I won’t be able to deal with that. I’m too much of a jealous person,” Borges wrote Nov. 8, 2016. “I get jealous now, imagine if we were together.”

Later that month, Borges, then 15, stabbed Viloria-Paulino, 16, to death before cutting off his head and hands and leaving him by the Merrimack River, prosecutors said. In his closing argument at Borges’s murder trial Monday, Essex Assistant District Attorney James Gubitose highlighted Borges’s chilling messages to Soriano in the days before the grisly slaying.

Borges told her that he thought people’s eyes changed when they killed someone — that the light would leave them.


“Take a good look at my eyes the next time we talk cuz that’s the last time ur gna see them like that ever again,” Borges wrote on November 17, 2016. “I know what I’m going to do and I can’t do anything about it. People will notice a big difference in me once my eyes turn dead.”

The next day, Viloria-Paulino went missing, Gubitose said. Police found his body on Dec. 1.

Jurors in Essex Superior Court began deliberations shortly before noon Monday. If convicted, Borges faces a sentence of between 25 years and life in prison. He could eventually be eligible for parole.

Viloria-Paulino’s relatives sat in the courtroom in black T-shirts bearing his photo on the front and the words “We want answers! We need answers! We need justice!” on the back.


Some of them cried and hugged as they left the courtroom to await the jury’s verdict. Testimony in the trial began April 29.

During closing arguments Monday, Gubitose held up a photo of Viloria-Paulino, standing in a gray T-shirt, and called him a “social butterfly” and a “bright sunshine.”

“The defendant took everything away from him, took who he was and who he was going to be,” Gubitose said.

Borges’s lawyer, Edward Hayden, urged jurors to question the evidence they had heard. He pointed out that investigators never found a weapon or Borges’s fingerprints or DNA.

“There were too many witnesses who lied,” Hayden said. “There were too many unanswered questions. There is too little evidence.”

Hayden said jurors should not believe the prosecution’s theory that Borges killed Viloria-Paulino in a jealous rage.

“Every witness said they got along,” Hayden said. “The motive about jealousy is just manufactured.”

But Gubitose said Borges’s messages to Soriano were controlling, and he took issue with her friendship with Viloria-Paulino.

“You went and said hi to Lee but not me right?” Borges wrote to Soriano on Nov. 7, 2016. “Didn’t even hit me up or let me know you was at school.”

Borges did not testify during the two-week trial. Jurors heard from his friends and former classmates, medical examiners, and an investigator who reviewed cellphone records in the case.

Jurors deliberated for about four hours Monday and will return on Tuesday morning.

Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @tzigal.