– The Associated Press
WOBURN, Mass. – A jury on Thursday convicted a Wayland man of strangling and stabbing his former high school sweetheart just weeks after graduation.
Nathaniel Fujita, 20, hung his head, his face emotionless, as the Middlesex Superior Court jury’s foreman found him guilty on all counts in the July 2011 killing of Lauren Astley. They were both 18 at the time. The jury deliberated about seven hours over two days.
Astley’s mother, Mary Dunne, broke down in tears. The victim’s father, Malcolm Astley, then shared a sobbing hug with the defendant’s parents, Tomo Fujita and Beth Mattingly- Fujita.
Astley’s divorced parents gave victim impact statements before Fujita received the mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
Malcolm Astley said he wanted those present to acknowledge the value of his daughter’s life, and “the cutting off of all that she was and would be and contributed to the world.” He also called for Fujita to apologize, understand his actions, and for a broader understanding of domestic violence.
Dunne said she treasured her only child’s “uncanny ability to draw people into her circle,” and is tormented by “the image of her last excruciating minutes on earth” and the prospect of life without her.
The killing shocked the quiet middle class Boston suburb of about 13,000 residents.
Fujita’s lawyer, William Sullivan, never disputed that his client killed Astley, but said he did it during a psychotic episode and was not responsible for his actions.
A forensic psychiatrist testifying for the defense during the emotional three-week trial said Fujita lacked the ability to know his actions were wrong due to depression, daily marijuana use and repeated brain injuries suffered playing football.
Dr. Wade Myers said Fujita’s parents brought him to a psychiatrist just a few weeks before the slaying and he was diagnosed as having a major depressive disorder. Fujita’s aunt also had testified there was a history of mental illness in the family.