WAYLAND, Mass. — About 20 miles west of Boston, another young person has lost their life to violence. Lauren Astley, 18, was found dead in her hometown of Wayland on Monday. Prosecutors say it is a case of teen dating violence.
Like a lot of people her age, Lauren Astley had a spark for life. She volunteered in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, was about to go away to college in the fall and had a job at the Natick Mall. And she had a longtime boyfriend with whom she had recently broken up with. State prosecutor Lisa McGovern said Astley phoned Nathaniel Fujita, her former boyfriend, when she was at work on Sunday.
“Those phone calls occurred close to the time that she left work, approximately 6:30 in the afternoon. After that point, that evening, Lauren Astley did not return home,” McGovern said.
Later that night the police found Astley’s Jeep parked at the town beach, the windows down, her purse and computer on the front seat.
The next morning her body was discovered submerged in a marsh, with a severe wound on the neck. Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said she died from the wounds and strangulation. Fujita is charged with first-degree murder. Leone calls it a case of teen dating violence.
“We are very confident that it was about the perpetrator exercising power and control over someone he had a fairly long relationship with,” Leone said.
Many people in the community say they are shocked by the crime. Alan Kline, a grandfather and retired business executive, is among them.
“It’s just tragic that it happened to such a young, talented girl with her whole life ahead of her,” Kline said.
At the Wayland House of Pizza, owner Moody Abdalla said he recognized Lauren Astley when he saw her picture in the news.
“The poor girl she was here last, I believe Tuesday or Monday, with one of her girlfriends. They had pizza, they sat here for almost, like, 45 minutes to an hour. She was a nice girl. She was happy,” Abdalla said.
Jed Dawson and his son Sam are having a sub and pizza for lunch. Dawson, a Wayland resident for 20 years, said normally Wayland is a town that is “under the radar.”
“It’s just disturbing that somebody could have such little value for life, and do something like that,” he said.
Dawson noted the person the police had arrested wasn’t from out of town.
“If it was an outside person that came in and did this, it would be different. When you see a relationship situation like this go bad, it’s not like a perpetrator that came in from somewhere else.”
The alleged perpetrator’s family and the victim’s family knew each other. Astley’s father has a message for the parents of Nathaniel.
“Lauren’s mother and I share the anguish of Nate’s parents, who put so much caring and love into Nate and my daughter, as well. We want them to know that,” he said.
Fujita’s attorney, William Sullivan, had a similar message for the Astleys from Fujita’s parents.
“This is a very upsetting thing for parents to go through, on both sides. But they’re upset also for the victim’s family and for the victim,” Sullivan said.
Nathaniel has no prior criminal record. He was denied bail, and his next court date is August 15.