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October 10, 2012

La Guira trial set to begin today

LAWRENCE — Just a little over two years ago, drug dealer Johan Saint Clair allegedly opened fire with a semi-automatic handgun, spraying bullets into the Broadway nightclub La Guira killing two people and wounding two others in what authorities described as a “revenge” attack.

Today, opening arguments are expected in Saint Clair’s double murder trial on top floor of Lawrence Superior Court.

The bloody crime was considered retribution against a Lawrence-based kidnapping gang that previously stole large amounts of cocaine from Saint Clair, according to court documents released late last month.

Killed on July 6, 2010 were Amarilis Roldon, 24, of Dorchester, and Juan Esteban Suazo-Soto, 24, of Hyde Park. La Guira shooting survivors Valerie Verdejo and Jose Luis Medrano Baez are listed as potential trial witnesses.

One of the survivors told police of their involvement in a robbery with Suazo-Soto of Saint Clair for “multiple kilograms of cocaine,” according to court documents.

Saint Clair is charged with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of armed assault with intent to murder, two counts of armed assault by means of a dangerous weapon and illegal possession of a large capacity weapon.

A conviction of first degree murder carries a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Jury selection in the case started yesterday morning. Judge Richard Welch told the potential pool the trial would last two weeks. Saint Clair and his defense attorney Russell Sobelman of Lynn along with Prosecutors James Gubitoise and Jessica Strasnick introduced themselves to jurors yesterday.

Saint Clair, 32, wore headphones in court. Seated next to him was a court interpreter, who translated the proceedings from English to Spanish for him.

Lawrence police witnesses that could be called to testify include Detective Capt. Denis Pierce, Detectives Thomas Burke and Brian Voisine, officers PJ Lopez, Joseph Padellaro and Nelson Potter, according to a witness list Welch yesterday described as “over inclusive.”

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