Trial underway for Nashuan accused of ‘revenge beating’

Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup Christopher Dallas-Koziol, left, who is on trial on charges related to a beating of a Nashua man last year, watches with his lawyer, Attorney Rusty Chadwick, as the jury views the scene of the incdient Tuesday morning.

NASHUA – When four of Eric Luna’s close friends decided to interrogate the man they believed sold Luna the drugs on which Luna overdosed and died last fall, the confrontation suddenly erupted into a lengthy spate of violence that left the man a bloodied mess, one of the four friends testified in court Tuesday.

Shane MacKenzie, who is serving a term of two to six years in State Prison for his role in the Oct. 22, 2017 incident at Luna’s Cross Street apartment, was the first witness to take the stand on the opening day of trial for Christopher A. Dallas-Koziol, 32, also an alleged participant who opted to let a jury decide whether he is guilty of the five felony offenses with which he is charged.

MacKenzie and the other two men – Jeremiah Starkweather, 43, and Jonathan Emery, 39 – entered plea agreements with prosecutors and are currently serving similar sentences.

Luna, whom MacKenzie described as a close friend, “like brothers,” died of a suspected overdose of drugs that he reportedly bought from Michael Thomas, a former Nashua man whose current whereabouts are unknown.

While Thomas was never charged in connection with Luna’s death, MacKenzie testified that he and the other three men strongly suspected Thomas sold Luna the drugs that killed him.

Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup Judge Charles Temple and Assistant County Attorney Cassie Devine stand on the top step of 49 Cross St. Tuesday morning as Christopher Dallas-Koziol's attorney, Rusty Chadwick, speaks with a court reporter as they await the jury in Dallas-Koziol's trial to arrive.

The charges on which Dallas-Koziol is on trial include one count each of first-degree assault; second-degree assault; criminal threatening; kidnapping; and criminal restraint.

They accuse him of “acting in concert with” the other men to assault Thomas, strip him naked, pour lighter fluid on him, confine him to the apartment and prevent him from leaving, point a gun at him, and cut Thomas’s face with a knife, according to the indictments.

Testimony is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. today at Hillsborough County Superior Court-South.

The jury of eight men and six women, including the two alternates, began the day Tuesday by traveling to 49 Cross St., the French Hill apartment house where Luna and the four men lived and in which the incident took place.

Assistant County Attorney Cassie Devine, who is prosecuting the case, described in her opening statement a scenario in which four men, at once devastated by their friend’s death and angry at Thomas, the man they believed sold him the drugs that killed him, hatched a plan to “interrogate” Thomas and force him to confess to police.

Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup Attorney Rusty Chadwick, right, speaks to members of the jury during their view of the Cross Street apartment house where his client, Christopher Dallas-Koziol, who is standing behind Chadwick, is accused of taking part in the beating of a man last year. Judge Charles Temple is at left.

The plan suddenly took a violent turn when Thomas, who one of the men summoned to the Cross Street residence, punched MacKenzie in the head.

“All hell breaks loose” at that point, Devine said, alleging the men attacked Thomas. Shortly after they dragged Thomas upstairs and into Luna’s top floor apartment, they pushed him into the shower where, Devine said, “Mr. Dallas-Koziol takes a knife and slices (Thomas) across the face.”

The spate of assaults, which moved from room-to-room, sometimes with Thomas being dragged by his hair, MacKenzie testified, “ended like this,” Devine said, as she placed a photo of a battered, bloodied Thomas on the overhead projector.

While Devine told the jury she “is not going to suggest that Michael Thomas is innocent,” Dallas-Koziol should nevertheless be held accountable for his alleged role in the incident, she added.

But Dallas-Koziol’s lawyer, Rusty Chadwick, cited the fact Thomas was never charged, and that Thomas “had plenty of opportunities to get out of that apartment.”

Staff photo by Dean Shahoup Christopher Dallas-Koziol listens to testimony Tuesday on the first day of his trial in Hillsborough County Superior Court South.

Although Thomas was able to use his cellphone at times during the alleged attacks, he “never called 911,” Chadwick said.

Chadwick said Thomas stabbed three of the four men, including his client, after grabbing a knife in an attempt to free himself from the apartment.

MacKenzie, meanwhile, grew emotional at times, his voice sometimes breaking as he recounted the series of events.

He said Starkweather, who was Luna’s roommate, arrived home to find Luna on the floor, unresponsive and “half blue and half white.” MacKenzie, who lived downstairs from Luna, awoke to Starkweather “banging on my door,” he said.

They called 911, and started CPR as directed by the 911 operator, MacKenzie said.

It was after police came and went and Luna’s body was removed that friends, family and acquaintances began arriving to console one another, MacKenzie said.

Sometime later is when they contacted Thomas, who arrived to find four angry men ready to confront him.

“We cornered him … pulled out a chair, told him to sit down,” MacKenzie said. They began peppering him with questions. “I told him he needed to turn himself in,” he said of Thomas, who, he said, “started crying … falling apart” when they told him Luna had died.

Chadwick, under cross examination, asked MacKenzie why the four didn’t just take Thomas to police headquarters and turn him in.

“Because he punched me … I lost it,” MacKenzie said. “Once he hit me, all hell broke loose.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.