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Lauren Astley's mother testifies at trial of Nathaniel Fujita, accused of killing her 'only child'

Posted by Leslie Anderson  February 28, 2013 12:01 PM

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WOBURN -- Mary Dunne’s voice was ragged as she identified the photograph the prosecutor set in front of her on the witness stand in Middlesex Superior Court.

“This is my only child, Lauren Astley,” Dunne said, her body shaking.

In the picture, her daughter beams, her head tipped to the side. It remained up on the screen Thursday morning as Dunne described her daughter’s love of her friends, of singing, and music, and the last time she saw her alive.

It was July 2, 2011, at the Natick Mall, where Astley worked. “We had a small meal together and then I walked her back to her job,” Dunne said.

Dunne looked only once at Nathaniel Fujita, the man accused of luring Astley to his home the following day, telling her to park out of sight, and then beating, strangling and slashing her to death.

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

Fujita is on trial facing first-degree murder and other charges. Prosecutors have argued that he killed Astley because he was angry that she had broken up with him; his lawyer has said that his client was suffering a brief psychotic episode.

Astley was a singer from the time she was four years old, said Dunne, first in a church choir and, in high school, in an all-female a capella group. She played the French horn, was active in church, and took three trips to New Orleans to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. She played varsity tennis, and spent a lot of time with her close circle of friends.

“Lauren had a lot of adoptive families,” Dunne said.

Dunne said she attended a graduation party on June 4, 2011, where according to earlier testimony this week, Fujita lost his temper after Astley refused to talk to him. Astley’s friend Hannah Blahut testified Monday that Fujita had shown up drunk, followed Astley around, and finally shoved a tent pole so hard that the tent nearly collapsed.

Dunne said her daughter came crying to her twice during the party. Dunne testified that she told Fujita to settle down, that he and Astley were no longer dating, that this was her graduation party and she deserved to enjoy herself. Dunne said Fujita replied that he hadn’t done anything. She told him that if there were more complaints she would ask him to leave.

When her daughter came crying to her a second time, Dunne testified, she called Fujita’s mother and told her to pick up her son.

Astley was 5 feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds when she was killed, Dunne said.

Dunne was the final witness for the prosecution, which rested its case Thursday morning. Fujita’s defense attorney did not cross-examine Dunne. When she stepped down from the stand, attorneys from both sides spoke quietly with the judge at sidebar, and Fujita sobbed loudly in the otherwise silent courtroom.


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

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