SALEM, Mass. — It's unclear if Mathew Borges, the Lawrence teen charged with the beheading murder of a classmate, will take the stand in his own defense in his first-degree murder trial which is scheduled to start next week.
Jury empanelment in the long-awaited trial starts Monday and is expected to take a couple of days. Opening statements are scheduled for Wednesday.
Prosecutors are trying to prove Borges, who was 15 at the time, murdered Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino, 16, with "premeditation and extreme atrocity and cruelty," Assistant District Attorney James Gubitose said in court Wednesday.
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.
Attorneys involved in the case met Wednesday for the last time before the trial starts. Judge Helene Kazanjian will preside over the trial.
The trial could last a month and will include a visit to the Lawrence riverbank where the Viloria-Paulino's beheaded body was found.
Although Borges was 15 at the time of the murder, he is being tried as an adult.
In court Wednesday, Edward Hayden, one of Borges' defense attorneys, referred to a report indicating Viloria-Paulino had 76 stab wounds on his body, including four severe wounds to his heart, as evidence of torture.
Hayden said officers involved in the case questioned people about violent gang members, including MS-13 and Joloperros, who are known to inflict violence and torture.
"The MS-13 weapon of choice is a machete," said Hayden, noting a report by a prosecution expert witness says the dismemberment of Viloria-Paulino's body "was consistent with what's done with a machete."
But Hayden's comments drew a spirited response from Gubitose, who said there is "zero evidence he was tortured."
Gubitose referred to 60 stab wounds, the "vast majority" of which were "post-mortem," meaning after death.
"Hacking and sawing when the defendant was trying to get his head and hands off," Gubitose said.
Prosecutors also plan to introduce a variety of messages, including Facebook private messages, group messages and iPhone text messages as evidence.
Some of the messages are between Borges and a girl he was dating for several months. Others are group messages between as many as nine people, prosecutor Jessica Strasnick explained.
Photos and audio messages of Borges are included. Borges allegedly sent his girlfriend one message that said, "I have a bad side. You would not want to get to know me. I do things you would not approve of."
However, defense attorney Amy Smith asked Judge Kazanjian to redact a number of the messages, saying they are irrelevant.
Once the trial starts, testimony in the case will be heard both in half and full days in courtroom J in Salem Superior Court.
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.
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.
Numerous expert witnesses are expected to testify as well.
Trial exhibits are expected to include photographs, surveillance videos, audio recordings and clothing, 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.
Borges previously had bushy, long curly hair. He now has 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 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.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.