Testimony in Marin trial continues Thursday; closing arguments tentatively set for Friday

NASHUA – Defense attorney Paul Garrity was stopped short Wednesday by a series of sustained prosecutor objections from exploring a brief, but important, conversation that witness Michael Rivera had with a police officer after his arrest on the day Brielle Gage died.

Rivera, at the time the fiance of Brielle’s mother, Katlyn Marin – who is on trial on charges stemming from the toddler’s Nov. 25, 2014, death – reacted with surprise when told by police that he was being charged with resisting arrest and violating his bail conditions.

“Is that it?” Rivera said, according to documents previously filed in Marin’s case. Wording in the documents suggests that Rivera was surprised, as well as relieved.

But for the purposes of trial testimony, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said in objecting to Garrity’s questioning, Rivera’s statements amount to hearsay evidence that, he argued, is not admissible.

Judge Charles Temple agreed with Strelzin, thereby relegating Garrity’s questioning of police detective Robert Goodwin regarding that conversation to a series of fairly vague queries, such as: “You had a conversation?” “Did he initiate it?” “Did he ask you a question?” “Did he answer?” “Did he appear (or sound) surprised?”

Goodwin answered “yes” to the first four questions but told Garrity he couldn’t see Rivera well enough to determine whether he appeared surprised – nor could he tell from his voice.

Goodwin was among a dozen people who testified during Wednesday’s seventh day of Marin’s trial in Hillsborough County Superior Court South.

Garrity and co-counsel Justin Shepherd began calling witnesses Wednesday morning, after the state called its last one at the end of Tuesday’s proceedings.

Testimony is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. Thursday in Courtroom 3. Lawyers indicated at the end of Wednesday’s testimony that closing arguments could take place Friday morning, which would be the trial’s ninth day.

Marin, 27, who was arrested Jan. 2, 2015, as she exited a medical office in Nashua, has since been held without bail at Valley Street jail in Manchester.

She is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of manslaughter, accused of recklessly, and knowingly, causing her daughter’s death – allegedly through a pattern of child abuse – and failing to get prompt medical attention for the girl following alleged assaults.

Marin opted for a bench trial, meaning no jury is hearing her case. Instead, Judge Charles Temple has the duty of deciding whether she is guilty after weighing all the evidence presented at trial.

Garrity and Shepherd called several police officers, including two currently working undercover assignments who wore black masks to conceal their identity, along with Gail and Paul Norton – Rivera and Marin’s former neighbors – and forensic examiner Timothy Jackson, a criminalist at the state laboratory in Concord.

In addition to those who testified, numerous other Nashua police officers, mostly from the detective division, have been observing the proceedings each day, as have several members of Marin’s family – all of whom sat on the prosecution side of the courtroom.

The first three officers to testify, beginning with then-patrol officer Mike Hatzipetros, were questioned about responding to 119 Walnut St., which is at the corner of Walnut and Oak streets and next door to 14 Oak St., where Marin – and sometimes Rivera – lived with Brielle and her four boys – the youngest of whom is Rivera’s son.

They were called by Gail Norton, at the time the owner of 119 Walnut St., who testified Wednesday that she knew Rivera as “Pete” and that she wanted him removed from her house “because he was nervous, just seemed edgy … something wasn’t right.”

Rivera, who was friends with Gail’s son Paul Norton, left 14 Oak St. around 11:30 a.m. Nov. 25, 2014, as Marin, after hesitating, called 911 for her unresponsive daughter.

Paul Norton, who also testified Wednesday, said he heard banging on his window around that time, but didn’t respond immediately because he was taking a bath.

He eventually saw Rivera at the window “banging, like frantic … ” he said, and let him in. Rivera sat down in the living room and told Norton he was “nervous … about the situation” next door, he said.

Rivera didn’t talk a lot, but frequently looked out the window toward 14 Oak St., Norton testified. About two hours later, Rivera spotted police approaching 119 Walnut St. and ran upstairs, Norton said.

“He said to say that he was there all night,” Norton added.

Hatzipetros and the other two officers arrived and began searching the first floor for Rivera, according to the Nortons’ and the officers’ testimony.

Finding nothing, they went upstairs, announcing their presence, then heard a noise that drew them to a bedroom closet.

Rivera stood inside, not fighting police but not cooperating, either, the officers said. They eventually removed him, placed him on a bed, handcuffed him and led him outside, where Goodwin picked him up and brought him to police headquarters.

The defense has repeatedly scrutinized Rivera’s behavior between the time he allegedly fled 14 Oak St. and his arrest roughly four hours later, suggesting that a man who runs off rather than helping a gravely injured toddler, hides from police in a closet, then seems surprised when police tell him he’s only being charged with two minor offenses is acting more like he’s guilty than innocent.

A broken lamp discovered in the trash at 14 Oak St. was the subject of fairly lengthy questioning, mostly by Garrity, who asked Nashua police detective Matthew Allen why the lamp caught his attention at first.

Its size and shape, or pattern, appeared similar to injuries on Brielle’s head, Allen said.

“Could it have been used to strike Brielle?” Garrity asked. “Possibly,” Allen answered.

Jackson, the State Lab criminalist and forensic examiner, described the process by which he analyzed three pairs of sneakers taken as evidence from 14 Oak St.

Working from an enlarged image of a particular grouping of bruises on Brielle, Jackson said he takes a transparent “impression” of the sneaker’s pattern and places it over the image to look for similarities.

The pattern on one of the sneakers, a pink-and-white Nike, had “some characteristics” that lined up with the bruises, Jackson said, but the impression wasn’t good enough for him to determine that the specific sneaker caused the injury.

The sneakers were among multiple items police seized as evidence from the 14 Oak St. apartment. They sent them to the state lab partly based on Rivera’s statements to police alleging that Marin picked up a sneaker and beat Brielle with it during one of the alleged assaults.

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