SALEM, Mass. — “Babe, I’m sorry. I’m bleeding to death.”
Those are the words Courtney Trussell testified that her fiance, Matthew Sabatino, 28, said to her seconds after he was stabbed in the heart outside a downtown Haverhill bar.
His left ventricle was pierced and 10 days later — June 8, 2017 — he was dead.
Opening arguments and testimony began in the trial of Hayden Delafuentes, 25, four years to the day after Sabatino died.
Delafuentes is on trial in Salem Superior Court, charged with first-degree murder. He’s also on trial for stabbing Daniel Doore five times May 28, 2017 and is additionally charged with armed assault with intent to murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury.
He is being represented by defense attorneys John MacLachlan and Christopher Federico. Assistant District Attorneys Erin Bellavia and Jessica Strasnick are prosecuting the case against Delafuentes.
Sabatino, a father of two, spent his last 10 days in a coma in a Boston hospital. Doore, also a father of two, was seriously injured but survived the attack.
Jurors were selected to hear the murder case Monday. Trussell, Doore and other prosecution witnesses were called to testify Tuesday after attorneys made their opening statements.
Trussell said she, Sabatino, Doore and three friends were happy to be on the town that night. As parents, they weren’t always able to have that freedom, she said.
“We were all excited to be going out,” Trussell said.
The group first went to Oriental Gardens for drinks and appetizers and later headed to the Chit Chat Lounge on Washington Street for a drink.
When they left the Chit Chat and were standing outside, they encountered a reportedly angry Delafuentes who, according to prosecutors, stabbed Sabatino and Doore.
Trussell said she was pushed by someone from behind and fell. When she got up, Sabatino “was holding his chest,” she testified.
“I just saw blood. He pulled his hands down and all I could see was blood,” said Trussell, adding that she panicked.
“He said, ‘Babe, I’m sorry. I’m bleeding to death,’” Trussell continued. “I was shaking. I was crying. I was trying to hold pressure on his chest.”
She recalled saying, “‘Stay with me, listen to me. ... I love you.’”
A man and woman she did not know stopped to help her, she said. The man had an extra T-shirt over his shoulder and used it to apply pressure to Sabatino’s chest. The woman tried to comfort Trussell.
“I was just hysterical,” she said, answering questions posed by the prosecutor, Bellavia.
She remembers seeing a knife. “I just don’t know where,” she said.
The defense questioned Trussell about what she told a state police investigator that morning at the hospital.
“It was four years ago and I was in a state of hysteria and panic,” she said. “I honestly don’t know how many detectives I’ve spoken with.”
Trussell said she spent the following 10 days with Sabatino in the hospital.
“I haven’t slept through the night in four years,” she said.
Doore was stabbed five times in his back, chest, left forearm and elbow, and right hand.
On the stand Tuesday afternoon, he indicated to jurors the areas where he was injured. He also testified he suffered an aneurysm that required surgery a month later.
“I remember being on the ground and not being really sure what happened. I started to really feel the wounds I had,” he said.
“I believe then people were telling me to ‘stay down,’” he testified, answering Bellavia’s questions.
“I remember feeling how cold the sidewalk felt ... just bits and pieces,” he said.
Answering a question from the defense, Doore said he regularly carries a knife with him as a habit and that it is a tool, not a weapon.
Stephanie Richards, Sabatino’s older sister, told jurors how she and her brother listened to music together. They would hang out and enjoyed taking their children to the park, she said.
Sabatino was a forklift operator who had most recently been living in Lawrence with Trussell and Trussell’s mother, she said.
She described her brother as an “adventurer” and “joker” who enjoyed playing the drums. Richards also showed jurors a photo of Sabatino taken at their brother’s wedding.
Also testifying Tuesday was Haverhill police Detective Kyle McMann, one of the first officers to respond to the stabbings. He said there were many people outside when he arrived and “a lot of people screaming.”
He first saw Doore, who he said was “bleeding pretty good” from the wounds he had suffered. A “large laceration” on his back “was the worst of all of them,” said McMann, a trained Army medic and EMT.
McMann said he then saw Sabatino “who appeared to be more severely hurt.” A panicked woman was with him.
In his opening statement, defense attorney MacLachlan said Delafuentes did not murder Sabatino or assault Doore with intent to murder him. He said what occurred that night was “a fight” involving people “that had been drinking all night.”
Doore was “armed with a knife” as well, MacLachlan said.
The trial is expected to resume Wednesday morning and run into next week.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.