Beheading murder trial starts later this month 

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff file photoMathew Borges of Lawrence is charged with first-degree murder in the 2016 death of Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino, 16, of Lawrence. He is seen here in a previous court appearance. 

SALEM, Mass. — The first-degree murder trial for a Lawrence teen accused of killing a classmate could last a month and will include a visit to the riverbank where the beheaded body of Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino, 16, was found in December 2016, attorneys said Thursday. 

Prosecutors and defense attorneys involved in the criminal case against Mathew Borges, who was 15 when he allegedly murdered and beheaded Viloria-Paulino, were back in Salem Superior Court on Thursday as the case approaches trial. 

Although Borges was 15 at the time of the murder, he is being tried as an adult. 

Assistant District Attorney Jay Gubitose told presiding Judge Helene Kazanjian the trial, set to start April 22, will likely last three weeks to a month.

Jury selection in the case is expected to start April 22 and opening statements will follow once a jury is empaneled.  

The potential jury pool will be asked questions about gangs, gang affiliation and membership, race, ethnicity and Borges' and Viloria-Paulino's ages. 

Testimony in the case will be heard both in half and full days during the trial. 

The trial will include a "view," which involves busing jurors to the scene of the crime, which in this case is a riverbank off Water Street in Lawrence. 

Gubitose said jurors may also visit a street associated with the case. 

The list of potential witnesses who will testify during the trial is lengthy and includes hundreds of names. Viloria-Paulino's mother and grandparents are among those listed, as well as dozens of Lawrence police officers and state troopers who investigated the case. 

Defense attorneys for Mathew Borges have indicated they may call as many as six expert witnesses to testify. 

Trial exhibits are expected to include photographs, text messages, Facebook and phone records, surveillance videos and audio recordings, and clothing, according to court papers. 

In court Thursday, a civilian witness, Mucio Lopez, flanked by his attorney, Stephen Wright of Lawrence, had a private conversation with the judge at sidebar. 

Afterward, Kanzanjian said the witness "had a Fifth Amendment privilege in the case."

When a person asserts a Fifth Amendment privilege, they he or she is asking not to be called at trial because their testimony may incriminate them. 

Edward Hayden, Borges' court-appointed defense attorney, previously filed a motion asking for funds to pay for a "Boston-based gang expert" which is "necessary to the defense," according to court papers.

Borges has been held without bail since his arrest Dec. 3, 2016. 

Previously held at a juvenile detention facility in Dorchester, Borges is now 17 and currently held at Middleton Jail, according to court papers signed by both Gubitose and Hayden and filed with the court Thursday. 

Borges previously had bushy, long curly hair. However, when court officers escorted him into the courtroom Thursday, Borges, dressed in sweats, had very short hair and a small mustache. 

At the time of the murder, Borges and Viloria-Paulino were students at Lawrence High School.

Viloria-Paulino was found decapitated on a riverbank off Water Street on Dec. 1, 2016. The teen's head was found a short distance away from his body, investigators said.

A motive for the gruesome murder has not been publicly revealed.

Viloria-Paulino last was seen by his family around 5:30 p.m., Nov. 18, 2016. He was reported missing to the Lawrence police the following day.

Police said Viloria-Paulino and Borges went to the riverbank on the night of Nov. 18 to smoke marijuana, where Borges is accused of attacking him.

A video of the two teens leaving Viloria-Paulino’s 50 Forest St. home that evening was seized by police, according to records.

According to a police report, Borges told an unidentified witness that he stabbed Viloria-Paulino and then cut off his head.

Among potential evidence investigators found on Borges' cell phone was a deleted message from October 2016 in which Borges wrote, "'You and I need to discuss demons we will face when the task is done,'" according to court paperwork.

Paperwork also states that Viloria-Paulino had been researching "craziest ... most drastic ways" to commit suicide.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.

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