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Rage, not psychosis, drove Nathaniel Fujita to kill ex-girlfriend, psychiatrist testifies for prosecution

Posted by Leslie Anderson  March 4, 2013 11:49 AM

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WOBURN - Rage, not psychosis, drove Nathaniel Fujita to strangle and stab his former girlfriend, Lauren Astley, and dump her body into a Wayland marsh, a psychiatrist testified for the prosecution Monday.

“My assessment of Mr. Fujita’s mental status at the time of the crime was that he was angry, enraged, acting out in a very brutal way, and acting in a purposeful, well thought-out, goal-directed and thorough way,” Dr. Alison Fife, who met with him four times before the trial, testified in Middlesex Superior Court.

Fujita, now 20, is accused of luring 18-year-old Astley to his house, telling her to park out of sight and then beating, strangling and slashing her to death in the garage. He is being tried on first-degree murder and other charges.

Dr. Wade Myers, a psychiatrist called by Fujita’s defense lawyer, testified Friday that in his opinion Fujita was having a “brief psychotic episode” that made him unable to control his actions. In addition, Myers said, Fujita was suffering from major depression, as well as chronic traumatic encephalopathy from repeated head injuries from football.

On cross-examination Monday, however, Myers acknowledged that Fujita had not been diagnosed with any concussions before the slaying.

When Fife later took the stand, called by the prosecution, she testified that in her opinion Fujita did not have a mental impairment or mental defect at the time of Astley’s death.

She said he had the capacity to conform his conduct to the law, to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions, and the capacity to form the intent to murder.

Fujita’s actions after the slaying, such as getting rid of Astley’s car and her body, also show that he was not mentally ill, she said.

“It goes against everything we know scientifically about psychosis,” Fife said. “It’s driving a car, it’s putting a body into a car, it’s disposing of that body, it’s driving home.”

Fife also talked about how Fujita behaved when he was interviewed later by police.

“This is now somebody who has done what he’s done, and he’s able to comport himself, compose himself, speak appropriately to the authorities," she said. "He’s not appearing anxious, he’s not appearing disorganized. I don’t know how to say it, other than there is no evidence of having mental illness.”

Fife said mental illness did not drive Fujita to kill; “I think the primary motivator was rage.”

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

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