The weapons didn’t dissuade Vernazzaro, Buso argued. Someone told Vernazzaro that Martin had a bat. Others saw the glint of Christensen’s knife. Still, the older man charged at the teenagers, bare chested.
And once Vernazzaro got control of the bat, Buso suggested, “It was impossible for (Christensen) to think of going down on the ground, under another drunken, aggressive adult, to become his punching bag. It was not going to happen.”
Why didn’t Christensen go to an adult for help?
Buso pointed to his client’s traumatic history. He was born to alcoholic and negligent parents in Russia, who eventually lost custody of him and his sisters, Buso said.
He was put into a Russian orphanage at 5, where he was “disciplined” by being “caned” on his feet and burned on the back of his legs. After two years, an American teacher adopted him.
But that teacher was later accused of being a pedophile, and Christensen was taken away by the Department of Social Services, now known as the Department of Children and Families.
After several foster homes, a Wilmington couple, Dean Christensen and Jane Olingy, adopted the boy.
But they were eventually unable to deal with his emotional issues, and Christensen again ended up in state custody, this time in the Blaine House group home in Beverly, though he remained in contact with the Christensens during that time.
Christensen trusted no adult, said Buso.
As Buso spoke, the Christensens, who are paying for their son’s defense, and several friends and relatives who were seated in the courtroom wept openly. So did Buso.
Buxton acknowledged in her opening that the circumstances of Christensen’s life were “sad and tragic.”
But she urged jurors to put aside their sympathy and to focus on what happened that night.
And after his arrest, Buxton told jurors, Christensen maintained to police that he’d never stabbed Vernazzaro — who had stab wounds to his chest, head and back. Instead, Christensen told Beverly and state police detectives, Vernazzaro must have “fallen” on the knife.