Newly released text messages show that Nathaniel Fujita, an 18-year-old star athlete, was trying to rekindle his romance with Lauren Astley, the ex-girlfriend he's accused of murdering.
Fujita, a star on the football and track fields in Massachusetts, swapped a series of text messages with 18-year-old Astley on July 3, the night she died. The messages and the timeline of events were revealed by prosecutors during a Middlesex Superior Court arraignment Tuesday, in which Fujita pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and was ordered held without bail.
According to police, the two recent graduates of Wayland High School had been dating for about three years when Astley allegedly broke up with Fujita.
"I truly think there's part of you that still loves me, you just have to let me find it," Fujita allegedly wrote to Astley.
Several messages later, they decided to meet on the evening of July 3.
"Call me when you get out [of work]," Fujita texted.
Astley drove to Fujita's house at about 7:45 p.m. and texted "Here." It was the last message she sent, prosecutors said.
When Astley failed to return home that night, her father reported her missing. Her vehicle was soon found abandoned at the Wayland Town Beach parking lot. Wayland Police questioned Fujita but he said he had not seen her since she stopped at his house.
The following morning a bicyclist traveling off Route 27 in Wayland called police after she spotted Astley's body in a swampy area. A coroner determined she had been strangled with a bungee cord and that her neck had been slashed.
Police again turned to Fujita and this time found bloody clothing in his house, including a sweatshirt with pockets containing dirt similar to that found where Astley's body was discovered. Blood stains were also found in the kitchen and garage, police said. Fujita was arrested and taken into custody.
Prosecutor Lisa McGovern addressed the judge during the brief proceeding Tuesday, saying, "The circumstances of the alleged charges, your honor, are, in a word, chilling."
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"In an act of friendship, Lauren Astley reached out to the defendant. He reciprocated this act of friendship by killing her," McGovern said.
Authorities allege Fujita was despondent over the couple's April breakup -- so much so that he allegedly lured her to his home and killed her inside. Then he loaded her body into his Honda CRV, transported it to the swamp and ditched her Jeep Grand Cherokee, prosecutors claimed. He rounded out the night with a call to his parents to plan a family movie night.
"After killing Lauren Astley, this defendant set out to cover up what he had done, to hide evidence, to get rid of evidence and to create an alibi," McGovern said.
Following Tuesday's hearing, Astley's father, Malcolm Astley, read from a prepared statement outside the courtroom: "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."
According to Washington, D.C.-based criminal profiler Pat Brown, Lauren Astley's murder should serve as a warning to other young women.
"The brutal murder of Lauren Astley is a sad case of a young woman being too nice. ... [She] is exactly this kind of person a psychopath looks to lure in, to control, to possess, and, if she ever wants to be free of their relationship, to kill," Brown told The Huffington Post.
"For all young women and their families, they need to stop accepting anything but good behavior from boyfriends -- respectful and considerate and nonviolent," Brown continued. "If he cannot act this way, he needs help, but not his girlfriend's help or her family's. Girls should take a good long time before they get into a romantic relationship and even longer before they get into a sexual relationship. If the guy is a psychopath who wants to control her, he won't wait around."
Brown also said that, once a relationship is over, it's over -- and that women should not give in to pressures from their exes.
"If, like Lauren Astley, a young woman breaks off a relationship only to be asked for another chance or for a meeting to get closure, she should not give in. This request is yet another sign he does not respect her feelings; it is a manipulation that may get her killed," she said.
Fujita is being held at the Middlesex House of Correction in Billerica. He is due back in Superior Court on Sept. 22 for a pretrial conference.
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