WOBURN (CBS) – Jurors found a 20-year-old Wayland man guilty of murder Thursday in the brutal death of his ex-girlfriend.
The Middlesex Superior Court jury of four women and eight men needed less than two days to determine the fate of Nate Fujita.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz
They found him guilty of first degree murder in the stabbing and strangulation of 18-year-old Lauren Astley at his home in July 2011. He was also found guilty on several assault and battery charges.
He hung his head after the jury foreman read the verdict but showed no emotion. Astley’s mother Mary Dunne broke down in tears and hugged the prosecutor Lisa McGovern.
Fujita’s parents, who had been emotional at times during the trial, looked prepared for the guilty verdict, showing little emotion until a profound gesture of humanity from Astley’s father. He walked over to their side of the courtroom and embraced the parents of his daughter’s killer. He later asked Fujita for an apology. “I know he is probably deeply numb now regarding the bleakness of the future and what he has lost. I hope he will work to keep in mind what each of us has lost, each of us,” said Malcolm Astley.
A first degree murder conviction carries an automatic mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
Fujita was formally sentenced Thursday afternoon.
Astley’s mother and father each delivered victim impact statements before the sentencing.
Dunne said she did not know “how I will fully live again” without her daughter, who was her only child.
Watch: Mary Dunne Statement
“Never again will I be called Mom, Mommy, or Mother,” said Dunne. “The image of her last excruciating minutes on Earth will not leave my brain ever. They torment me and I feel powerless to stop them.”
Dunne also noted that she’ll never get to attend her daughter’s wedding, celebrate her birthdays, or have grandchildren.
Related: Lauren Dunne Astley Memorial Fund
Malcolm Astley suggested Fujita use what skills he has to help others while spending the rest of his life in prison and that it would be a “notable gift of atonement in Lauren’s memory.”
Watch: Malcolm Astley Statement
Fujita showed no emotion as the statements and sentence were read. He was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
In closing arguments Tuesday, defense attorney William Sullivan said Fujita was not in his right mind when he killed Astley. Sullivan cited a family history of mental illness, signs of depression in the year leading up to the murder, even raising the possibility of Fujita suffering CTE from head injuries playing high school football.
“We knew this was a possibility,” Sullivan told reporters outside. “We were hopeful that the jury would have been able to understand and grasp the concept of mental illness and how it played into this case, so we were disappointed.”
Sullivan says there will be an appeal.
McGovern argued that the murder was carefully planned and fueled by rage over a breakup.
She reminded jurors that Fujita asked Astley to park her car away from his house that night, stashed his bloody clothes and left her body in a nearby marsh.
McGovern said there is no such thing as a “psychosis fairy.”
Jurors had 240 pieces of evidence and three weeks of written testimony to review during their deliberations.
WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager contributed to this report.