Defense presents witness list in beheading case

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff file photoMathew Borges, 16, of Lawrence is charged with first-degree murder in the 2016 death of Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino of Lawrence. He is seen here in a previous court appearance. His trial is scheduled of April of 2019.  

SALEM, Mass. — Defense expert witnesses planned for the murder trial of a Lawrence teenager include two doctors who say Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino's beheaded body was exposed to the elements "no more than two to three days" before it was found on a city riverbank Dec. 1, 2016. 

However, Viloria-Paulino, 16, last was seen alive weeks before on Nov. 18, 2016. 

Exactly when Viloria-Paulino was murdered remains unclear in the two-year-old case. 

Expert witness Priya Banerjee, a forensic pathologist, is just one of six expert witnesses who may testify for the defense in the upcoming trial of Mathew Borges, 16, who is charged with the first-degree murder of Viloria-Paulino. 

"(Banerjee) is expected to testify concerning the process that a body goes through after death. She will offer an opinion that Lee Paulino had been dead no more than two to three days prior to Dec. 1, 2016," according to court papers. 

Other expert witnesses listed for the defense include insect, gang, defense wound and DNA specialists, documents indicate. 

The Borges murder trial is scheduled for April 22, 2019. He remains in a juvenile detention facility in Dorchester, where he’s been held without bail since his arrest Dec. 3, 2016. There, through the Department of Youth Services, he is continuing his high school education.

Borges, 16, and Viloria-Paulino were students at Lawrence High School.

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

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.

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

Attorneys involved in the case were in Superior Court on Wednesday, where a discussion of the defense's list of possible expert witnesses was conducted. 

Viloria-Paulino's mother and grandmother were present in the courtroom gallery. Relatives have been at all court hearings in the ongoing case since its beginning. 

Assistant District Attorney James Gubitose said the lawyers worked out questions and issues with the defense's expert witness list outside the courtroom and were "satisfied" with the matter at this time. 

Defense attorney Edward Hayden said prosecutors have agreed to provide the defense with "the same type of information about their expert witnesses." 

According to court filings, other expert witnesses the defense plans to call are:

- Denise Gemmellaro, a forensic entomologist and instructor who would testify about the process and time frame of insect colonization of a dead body and the "significance of a lack of" such insect colonization in Viloria-Paulino's body. Similarly to Banerjee, Gemmellaro "will offer an opinion that Lee Paulino's body had been exposed to the elements no more than three days prior to Dec. 1, 2016." 

- Emmett Folgert of the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, who has a background in violence prevention, mentoring and workforce training for at-risk youth. Folgert "will not offer an opinion on the merits of the case. He will testify concerning gang culture and procedures." 

- Jorja Leap, a nationally recognized gang expert, will "testify concerning gang culture and procedures." 

- Dr. William Stuart, a "teaching expert," is expected to testify about knife wounds, head injures and defensive wounds." 

- Eric Carita, a DNA and forensic services consultant, "will testify about sperm cells and the significance of sperm heads being attached to sperm tails."

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 Viloria-Paulino.

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

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

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.

Documents also state 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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