After three weeks at trial, Nathaniel Fujita was sentenced to life in prison without parole after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder with premeditation in the death of his ex-girlfriend, Lauren Astley, rejecting his insanity plea.
Fujita was also sentenced to concurrent terms of up to ten years in prison on two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, as well as two-and-a-half years for assault and battery.
Judge Peter Lauriat issued the sentence in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn shortly after noon on Thursday morning, March 7, calling it a "sad and tragic case."
Fujita, 20, of Wayland, acted in extreme atrocity, the jurors found, when he baited 18-year-old Astley to his home on July 3, 2011. Fujita told Astley to park her car out of sight and then beat, strangled, and stabbed her to death before dumping her body in a marsh to be found the following morning.
Before the sentencing, Astley's parents, who are divorced, both made their statements to the court to describe the impact of their daughter's murder.
Malcom Astley, the victim's father, made his statement first. As his voice weakened and he began to cry, he said, "We need to acknowledge the death, the absence, and the taking of the life of Lauren Dunne Astley, and the cutting off of all that she was and would be and contributed to the world. We need to affirm the high value of life."
Malcom continued, "There's hardly a day still after nearly two years when I, and I think her mother, do not sob over the loss of Lauren, or the affront she experienced."
The father also spoke of domestic violence as he said, "Three women a day, on average, in our country are murdered" by a partner.
The victim's mother, Mary Dunne, followed with her statement, "I am the mother of Lauren Dunne Astley, but never again will I be called Mom or Mommy or Mother. Lauren was my only child and she brought instant joy and light into my life."
The mother also spoke of how her daughter's death haunts her, saying, "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. Lauren does not have the privilege of reentering the world and it seems fair that Nathaniel should not either."
Dunne continued by saying for the first time in her thirty-two years of teaching, she has had to cut back on her work due to the "painful work of grieving."
Fujita did not make a statement before his sentencing, and he was stoic, hanging his head down, as he found out the rest of his life would be spent in prison.
Fujita's parents, Beth and Tomohiso Fujita, remained silent as the verdict was read, though Astley's parents sobbed and shook their heads. Malcom Astley extended his arms to the defendant's parents after the verdict, all three of them falling into a hug of sorrow.
The defense lawyer, William Sullivan, stated after the sentencing, "We're disappointed with the verdict. We knew that this was a possibility. We were hopeful that the jury would have been able to grasp and understand the depths of mental illness."
Sullivan had argued that Fujita fell into a deep depression, and that Fujita was also suffering from the effects of daily marijuana use and years of football-related head injuries. Further, the defense argued that Fujita had fallen into a "brief psychotic episode," leaving him unstable to control or understand his actions during the killing of Lauren Astley.
Lisa McGovern, the prosecutor in Fujita's case, argued in her dramatic closing statement, "There is no psychoses fairy who magically sprinkles a dose of psychosis on this defendant. The time for blaming football, the time for blaming marijuana, the time for blaming the victim, is over."