Newly revealed text messages between the one-time high school sweethearts in Massachusetts whose breakup ended in murder indicate that Nathaniel Fujita tried to reconcile with Lauren Astley before he allegedly killed her.
Eighteen-year-old Fujita was reportedly distraught after Astley ended their three-year relationship last April, sending her a letter pleading, "I truly think there's part of you that still loves me, you just have to let me find it."
Astley, also 18, whose body was found July 4 in a swamp near the couple's hometown of Wayland, Mass., responded with a series of text messages trying to set up a time to talk.
"In an act of friendship, Lauren Astley reached out to the defendant," prosecutor Lisa McGovern said Tuesday at the Middlesex Superior Court arraignment where the new details emerged. "He reciprocated this act of friendship by killing her."
Fujita pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the charge of first-degree murder and was ordered held without bail until Sept. 22, when his defense attorney plans to push for his release on bail.
Fujita, in custody since his arrest in July, also pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and a single count of assault and battery.
Astley's body was found in the swamp by a passing bicyclist. Her throat had been slashed and a jagged-edge, leaving a gaping wound across her neck.
Romance Ends In Murder
Prosecutors, who say Fujita brutally beat then strangled his former sweetheart with a Bungee cord, have presented the murder as a case of alleged teen dating violence.
"Lauren broke off the relationship. … It's a classic fatal paradigm that we see around teen dating relationships," Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone told reporters at a news conference last month.
Astley's friends told police he had an "on again, off again" relationship with Astley after she broke up with him in April. They also said Fujita had been less social and also seemed angrier for the past several weeks.
He had reportedly called Astley several times on her cell phone at the Shop344 store in the Natick Collection Mall where she worked. Cell phone records show three calls between Fujita and Astley the night before her body was found.
Fujita's mother also reportedly secretly visited Astley, an aspiring fashion design designer, at the Shop344 store, telling her that she was worried about her son's well-being after their breakup.
The two families reportedly shared a close bond. Astley even interviewed Tomo Fujita, Nathaniel's father, for a school project posted on YouTube in June 2010.
Astley's father, Malcolm Astley, expressed empathy for Fujita's family at a court hearing last month but at Tuesday's hearing, he could be seen in the courtroom weeping as details about his daughter's gruesome death were revealed.
"Our hearts are with the many who continue to feel the shock and pain of the tragedy and try to understand it as best we can," he said Tuesday outside the courtroom.
Tuesday's arraignment also painted a more detailed portrait Fujita's actions after the crime.
The new court papers say Fujita drove the night of July 3 from the Water Row swamp, where Astley's body was found, to his parents' nearby home, then called and asked them to come home so the family could watch a movie together.
Fujita was spotted driving shirtless, with his car windows down and music blaring.