HAVERHILL — Philip Lucas DeFusco of Haverhill appeared in Haverhill District Court yesterday after police charged him with stabbing a New Hampshire man to death on Wednesday. But, DeFusco, 21, did not show his face and instead stood hidden in a stairwell between the court’s lower level holding area and the courtroom above.
DeFusco’s defense lawyer, Thomas Gleason, convinced Judge Patricia Dowling to allow him to remain hidden from public view — although close enough to hear the proceedings — saying there were questions about his identification as a suspect.
Gleason said an eyewitness gave a description that in some ways did not match DeFusco, adding that the witness was also unable to identify him after being shown a photo array that included his picture.
Assistant District Attorney John DePaulo said the photos police showed to the witness were very old ones.
“His own mother tells police I think my son was involved in a stabbing,” DePaulo said. “I don’t think there’s an identification issue at this point.”
Dowling allowed DeFusco to remain out of view of the courtroom while the hearing took place.
DeFusco, of 45 Locust St., Apt. 716, was charged with murder and was ordered held without bail. A probable cause hearing was scheduled for Nov. 14.
According to a police report on file in Haverhill District Court, on Wednesday at approximately 8:23 p.m., officers responded to High Street for a report of a man with multiple stab wounds. Police found Derric Gaines, 25, of Danville, N.H., lying on the sidewalk, bleeding profusely. Gaines was transported to Lawrence General Hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later, according to Carrie Kimball-Monahan, a spokeswoman for Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.
Late Wednesday night, Haverhill police issued a bulletin to law enforcement agencies throughout the region to be on the lookout for a black 1998 Honda Accord with a New Hampshire license plate wanted in connection with the murder. They warned that the occupants could be armed and dangerous.
Police later reported that the vehicle had been recovered, but would not say whether anyone had been taken into custody.
According to the police report, a woman stopped by the police station early yesterday morning to say she witnessed the murder. The woman told police she read about the incident online and that instead of a black Honda they should be looking for a white Hyundai or Lincoln with Massachusetts plates.
The witness said that on Wednesday evening she saw two men arguing inside a white car parked on Arch Street. She said the driver pushed the passenger out the passenger door, climbed out of the car as well then assaulted him. The witness said the man broke free and ran down Arch Street to High Street, but the driver chased him.
The witness told police that after two minutes passed, the driver walked back up Arch Street, where he paused to retrieve something that had fallen to the ground during the altercation. The witness said the driver then fled the area at a high rate of speed. She described the driver as a man in his late 20s, with average length hair, clean shaven and dressed in a white T-shirt. She described the victim as a male with dark brown hair and wearing a gray T-shirt or tank top.
Police said they showed the witness a photo array that included a photo of DeFusco, but she was unable to identify him. The report noted that the photo was from 2009 and was not an accurate depiction of how he looks now.
The report said DeFusco’s stepmother, Kimberly DeFusco, called police yesterday morning to say she believed her stepson was involved in the stabbing on High Street.
The report said that at the same time, a male relative of the woman also called police to say they needed to get to her apartment quickly as Philip DeFusco was “freaking out” and that he feared he as going to kill Kimberly DeFusco and her 14-year-old son.
Police responded to 45 Locust St. (The Cordovan), where Kimberly DeFusco told them her stepson “Luke” was in their apartment and that she was fearful of going back in. The report said she then got into a car with her younger son. Police said her car matched the description given to them by a witness. Police inspected the car, which they identified as a white 2009 Lincoln MKZ, and noticed a reddish brown substance on the exterior and on the steering wheel.
Officers found Philip DeFusco in a bedroom. When they asked him for identification, he said it was in a drawer but that he did not want them searching it, according to the police report.
Police noted that DeFusco’s right hand had gauze and tape on it.
Kimberly DeFusco told police that when her stepson Luke came home Wednesday night between 8 and 8:30 p.m., he appeared agitated. She said he told her that “somebody got hurt on High Street” and there was blood in her car and she should go and clean it. The woman later told police she used a tissue to wipe off a small amount of blood from the car’s navigation system, then left the tissues in the car.
Police arrested Philip DeFusco and held him overnight pending yesterday’s hearing.