UPDATE: Friends say that Nathaniel Fujita had become increasingly angry after girlfriend Lauren Astley broke up with him. One the night he killed her, he bombed her at work with texts, insisting that they meet. She relented and ended up dead. See update after the jump…
Police have arrested 18-year-old Nathaniel Fujita for Lauren’s murder, but they’re not saying how the two might have known each other
just graduated from high school in Wayland, Massachusetts, and was
headed to Elon University in North Carolina this fall, hoping to become a
fashion designer. But Lauren also gave of herself.
Lauren Astley was one of the good ones. She was a popular girl who’d
Following Hurricane Katrina, she’d made three trips to New Orleans to help with the recovery. Yet all that promise was snuffed out Sunday night.
Her father, Malcolm Astley, says he had lunch with his daughter Sunday afternoon before she went to work at Shop344r. She got off work at around 6:40 p.m., but dad became worried when she never checked in at home.
He began reaching out to her friends, but there was no sign of his daughter. She was believed to have gone to the Wayland town beach.
She was last seen about an hour later. Her Jeep Cherokee was found at the beach. But there was no sign of Laurent.
It wasn’t until Monday morning at 7:30 that a bicyclist discovered her body in a marshy area nearby. Though no autopsy has been released, there were obvious wounds to her neck.
Police have arrested 18-year-old Nathaniel Fujita, but have yet to release any details on the case, including whether they knew each other or why he may have wanted to murder the girl.
This isn’t the kind of town accustomed to homicide. The last one occurred in 1985.
It wasn’t hard for police to trace Lauren’s path after she left work. While still on the job, she’d exchanged a number of phone calls with Fujita. The pair had dated for three years until recently breaking up. It seems Fujita wasn’t happy about the way things ended.
He’s the son of Japanese immigrants, and his father is a professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He was scheduled to attend Trinity College this fall, where he was going to play football.
When Lauren was first reported missing, Fujita joined a Facebook page set up to help find her. But when the cops came calling to talk to him, the ruse of concerned boyfriend quickly dissipated.
He told police Lauren arrived at his home after work, but they only talked briefly and the conversation was awkward. More awkward, however, was the evidence the cops found at his house.
They discovered blood on the floor of the garage and kitchen, and in the kitchen and bathroom sinks. Fujita had tried to hide bloody clothes and shoes in a crawl space. The clothes also showed the kind of dirt consistent with being in a marsh.
In all likelihood, he stabbed Lauren in the throat at his home, then strangled her to death with a bungee cord before dumping her in a marsh. He’s now being held without bond on murder charges.
UPDATE: Friends paint Fujita’s behavior as akin to the controlling husband in teen form.
He was the football star. She was the kind, bubbly young woman that everyone seemed to adore. They’d been dating since the 9th grade. But Lauren was preparing for a new life away at college, and she’d begun to think of Fujita as immature.
So she broke off their relationship last spring. As the months turned and the pair never rekindled, friends say Fujita became increasingly hostile and short-tempered. He’d been in a number of confrontations in recent weeks.
On the night Lauren was murdered, her boss as work says her cell phone was blowing up with texts from Fujita. He wanted to meet. She had other plans to go out with friends.
Lauren had apparently grown weary of her former boyfriend’s behavior. In the wake of their break-up, he’d become controlling and insistent, as if he couldn’t believe they were permanently no more, and he was doing his best to win her back.
But she was equally insistent about going to college and starting a new life. Even though Fujita was scheduled to go to school in Hartford, he couldn’t handle his girlfriend going off by herself to North Carolina.
Lauren didn’t want to meet him that night, but she finally relented. Police now believe he strangled and stabbed her in the neck in his garage, then dumped her body in a marsh. Detectives have spent the fast few days searching for evidence in that marsh.
Fujita has pleaded not guilty.
See our last story from the Homicide file: Brian Lamont Eggleston Guns Down 4-Year-Old, Mom Pregnant With Twins.