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October 2, 2012

Witnesses: We can't remember

SALEM, Mass. — It was foggy inside Salem Superior Courtroom I yesterday.

Witness after witness took to the stand in the trial of two men accused of robbing and murdering a Chinese food deliveryman in Lawrence in 2009, unable to recall what they saw, what they said or what they heard.

One witness couldn’t remember that she had testified before a grand jury. Another witness couldn’t remember what he told the grand jury. And another witness more or less admitted on the stand that he had lied to police and defense investigators because he didn’t want to testify at the trial.

About the only thing that was clear during the second day of testimony in the trial, which may go to the jury as early as tomorrow, is that most of the witnesses didn’t want to be there at all.

Daniel Lee Lopez, 24, of Lawrence, is charged with first-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and unarmed robbery of Thu Nguyen, 59, a Vietnamese immigrant who worked two jobs to support his family in Lawrence.

The other defendant, being tried simultaneously, is Ronnie Ramos, 20, also of Lawrence. He is charged with unarmed robbery.

Police and prosecutors allege that Ramos and Lopez called the Evergreen Restaurant at 105 So. Union St. the night of July 30, 2009, with the intention of robbing the deliveryman and stealing the food.

But something went awry, and at about 10 p.m., Nguyen was punched, fell to the ground, and fractured his skull. He died the following day at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, leaving behind his wife and three children.

Yesterday, prosecutor James Gubitose questioned a number of young people who were at a party that night at the Stadium Projects, a low-income development near Lawrence High School.

First up was Charlene Rios, 18, of 11 Lawrence St., who was just 15 at the time of the murder. She had gone to the party with three other people, didn’t know anybody, and left about 20 minutes later when the party was broken up by police.

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