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Cousin: Nathaniel Fujita said he wouldn't be tied to ex-girlfriend's slaying

Posted by Leslie Anderson  February 22, 2013 02:56 PM

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On the day his ex-girlfriend’s battered body was pulled from a Wayland swamp, Nathaniel Fujita sat on his cousin’s bed at her Framingham home and assured her that the police officers searching his house would not find anything connecting him to the slaying, according to court testimony Friday.

“He said, ‘They’re not gonna find a weapon there, if that’s what you mean,’” Caroline Saba testified in Middlesex Superior Court during Fujita’s trial on first-degree murder and other charges.

As Saba recounted their conversation, Fujita hung his head in the courtroom. He is accused of luring 18-year-old Lauren Astley to his home, telling her to park out of sight, and then beating, strangling and slashing her to death on July 3, 2011.

Prosecutors say he was furious and humiliated that his high school sweetheart had broken up with him; Fujita’s defense attorney says he was suffering a psychotic episode.

An hour after the killing, according to prosecutors, Fujita called his cousin and asked her to hang out, but she had plans. Saba testified Friday that during the conversation in her bedroom the following day, she asked Fujita how he could have called her the night Astley died.

“Having done what … I was beginning to realize he had done, I was asking how he could have possibly called me to hang out,” Saba testified. “He said that he needed – he just needed somebody to hang out with. He needed to get his mind off of it.”

Saba also testified that she asked Fujita how Astley’s car ended up at Wayland town beach, more than five miles from where her body was found and nearly half a mile from Fujita’s home.

“I just asked him how her car had gotten to the town beach,” said Saba. “He said, ‘It was me.’”

Saba’s testimony was halting, and she frequently said she could not remember events and conversations.

Caroline Saba, 22, followed her father, Philip, who described Fujita’s depression in the months leading up to the killing and his behavior on the day of the killing and those following. Both said Fujita, now 20, was depressed, quiet and withdrawn in the spring and summer of 2011, but that he didn’t seem angry at Astley in the early days of July.

Caroline Saba testified that she and Fujita went to the beach in Cape Cod on the day before the killing, where, she said, Fujita joked, played toss with a football, and smoked marijuana. They got ice cream and went shopping, she said, and then drove home. Nothing about the outing, she testified, struck her as unusual.

On July 3, a few hours before prosecutors say Fujita killed Astley, he attended a family barbeque at the Saba home. Caroline Saba testified that the two watched television and played the keyboard together before he left at around 5:30 p.m.

Prosecutors allege that Fujita killed Astley just after 7 p.m. Her body was found by a birdwatcher early in the morning of July 4.

Philip Saba testified that in the afternoon on July 4, he and his wife picked up Fujita’s father from the Wayland police station where he was being questioned at around 4 p.m., and that Nathaniel Fujita and his mother arrived at their Framingham home at around 5:30 p.m.

“They looked run down, really tired,” testified Saba. “They looked kind of despondent.”

Saba testified that Fujita went into the living room to read the Bible with his aunt.

Fujita ate in the kitchen, and after that, Caroline Saba testified that the two had their conversation in her bedroom. Fujita was arrested at the Saba home and charged with murder at around 2 a.m. on July 5, after police had finished searching the Fujita home in Wayland, according to law enforcement testimony.

After court was adjourned, Fujita’s mother broke down weeping.

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

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