Grisly testimony in Marin trial

NASHUA – Katlyn Marin lowered her head onto her arms at the defense table Tuesday afternoon and sobbed as the state’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Thomas Andrew, described in agonizing detail the astonishing number of injuries that led to the death of her daughter, 3-year-old Brielle Gage, on Nov. 25, 2014.

"Brielle had in excess of 150 separate bruises on her body," Andrew told defense lawyer Justin Shepherd during cross-examination on the sixth day of Marin’s trial on charges that she caused the girl’s death through repeated abuse.

"So yes," he said in response to Shepherd’s question, "the injuries (that caused her death) could have come from two separate assaults."

Andrew referred to earlier statements from various people, including Marin’s ex-boyfriend, Michael Rivera, that Brielle was assaulted on more than one occasion, allegedly by Marin, during Brielle’s final 12 hours of life.

Marin, 27, a six-year resident of Nashua until she was arrested and jailed on Jan. 2, 2015, for allegedly causing the death of her only daughter, is on trial before Judge Charles Temple on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of manslaughter, charges that accuse her of recklessly, and knowingly, causing the girl’s death, and failing to get prompt medical attention for Brielle after allegedly assaulting her.

There was no way, Andrew told Strelzin, that the injuries he saw on Brielle could have been caused by her falling down a stairway twice, as Marin had claimed from Day One.

Based on his findings, Andrew told the court, he ruled the cause of death as blunt impact injuries to the head, and swelling of the brain due to a subdural hematoma, or bleeding under the brain’s protective lining.

Under questioning by Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin, who is prosecuting the case with Assistant Attorney General Patrick Queenan, Andrew said he ruled Brielle’s death a homicide because the evidence proved that the death occurred "at the hands of another person."

Using diagrams rather than actual autopsy photos projected on a screen, Andrew presented a chilling narrative of his post-mortem exam, beginning with bruises and injuries to her face, teeth, lips and tongue.

"I saw extensive hemorrhaging … two (bruises) filled with blood, a large hematoma underneath the lining of the brain on the entire left side" of her head, Andrew told the court.

Brielle’s brain had swelled to the point of "herniating," or rupturing, itself, in her skull, Andrew continued. He said a brain, when injured, will swell, but that’s a problem "because it has nowhere to go," and eventually puts pressure on the parts of the brain that control breathing and heartbeat, he said.

Asked by Strelzin about the different colors visible in the photos of Brielle’s brain, Andrew said such discoloration "represents a badly injured brain."

As for the torso area, Andrew described "a plethora of injuries on the chest," many of which were bruises often grouped tightly together.

"Could that be from barefoot kicks or punches?" Strelzin asked.

"Yes," Andrew answered.

Andrew said he found similar bruising patterns on Brielle’s hips, one arm, her chest and "from the top of her back to the buttocks."

The girl’s lungs were bruised "extensively," Andrew noted. She had two broken ribs. He found bruises on her arms, a forearm, and her hands; a thumb and two fingers were bruised and discolored.

On Brielle’s legs, Andrew said he found more groupings of bruises, lacerations on both her knees, more bruises on her feet and a broken toe.

"The science tells us what, but not who, right?" Shepherd asked Andrew in cross-
examination.

"That’s correct. Science is silent on the ‘who’ part," Andrew responded.

Tuesday’s morning session, meanwhile, focused on Marin’s jailhouse letters and recorded phone conversations in the months following her Jan. 2, 2015, arrest and subsequent incarceration without bail.

None of the contacts, however, involved her then-fiance, Michael Rivera, with whom she had a series of 800-plus phone conversations and several in-person meetings just weeks earlier.

Once jailed, according to phone recordings the prosecution played Tuesday, Marin appeared to have all but dropped her long, close relationship with Rivera, turning her attention instead to another, older man whom she would soon ask to help her find "people who will testify against (Rivera’s) character at my trial."

The man, Patrick Ferullo, would go on to have "more than 200" phone conversations with Marin from Nov. 30, 2015, through March, Nashua police detective Sgt. Patrick Hannon testified.

Testimony is set to resume at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Courtroom 3.

Lengthier than anticipated testimony may push the trial, which began Aug. 15, into a third week, the parties indicated Monday. While some of the dozen or so witnesses who have testified were on the stand for only 20 or 30 minutes, others – such as Hannon – have so far spent two days on the stand.

Queenan questioned Hannon for roughly two hours Tuesday before defense attorney Paul Garrity began his cross-examination.

Queenan had Hannon read excerpts from several letters Marin sent from jail, none of which were to Rivera. One was to an individual Marin described as a "pen pal," and another was to her father, Harry Gage, whom she tells to copy the several enclosed letters in his handwriting and send one to each of his grandsons – Marin’s four sons.

But while she would eventually begin writing to Ferullo, the two got to know each other via the 200-plus phone calls, Hannon testified, all of which were recorded.

The recordings suggest that the two rapidly became acquainted as they discussed a particular subject they had in common: Michael Rivera.

Relegated to maximum security for alleged jailhouse rules violations that she later disputed while speaking with a visitor, Marin told Ferullo in a Dec. 2015 call that she spent much of her time going over discovery paperwork and other documents related to her case.

Included in those documents, which were the subject of a Telegraph story that Marin cited several times during talks with Ferullo, was proof that Rivera was a "snitch" who had been working since 2010 as a confidential informant for Nashua police.

"He’s snitched on a whole bunch of people … at least 10 people, I found out … maybe 15," she said. Among them was Patrick Ferullo.

"So he ratted me out?" Ferullo asked.

"Yeah, he said you were selling crack," Marin answered.

"Oh, God," Ferullo said with a sigh.

In another call shortly afterward, Ferullo, sounding excited, begins by telling Marin, "Well I just beat the s— out of Mike," referring to Rivera.

"Really? What did he say?" Marin said.

"Nothing … he was all (messed) up on dope," Ferullo said.

"I pulled his shirt over his head. … He had wires on him. They’re gonna find him dead," he added, his voice rising.

"Yeah, he wore wires on me, trying to get me to say I hurt Brielle," Marin said, referring to the series of meetings the two had when Rivera was helping Nashua police gather evidence on Marin.

She briefly lamented the fact that Rivera was an informant, telling Ferullo, "how could I get back together with him after what he did to my kid? I didn’t want to believe he could do that s— to my daughter," Marin said, apparently placing the blame on Rivera for the assaults that led to Brielle’s death.

Ferullo again sounded upbeat at the beginning of the next call, asking Marin, "You wanna hear some great news?"

"The cops called me, they’re looking for (Rivera)," he said. "He’s looking at serious charges."

"For what?" Marin asked. "I don’t know, they wouldn’t tell me," he said of police. "I’m supposed to meet with them later."

"Don’t bother," Marin responded. "They’re just going to put him in protection."

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or@Telegraph_DeanS.