SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

October 10, 2013

Stabbing suspect: running away ‘not an option’

BEVERLY — The Wilmington woman who with her husband adopted Sajan “Sage” Christensen out of the state foster care system a decade ago described to jurors a “charming,” if somewhat fearful, little boy who gradually became a troubled, suicidal teenager.

Eventually, Jane Olingy and Dean Christensen, who had waited until later in life to start their small family by adopting the child, would find themselves overwhelmed by the emotional problems he suffered as a result of childhood abuse and had him hospitalized, Olingy testified during her son’s trial on first-degree murder charges.

Then, she was confronted by prosecutor Kristen Buxton with the reason he was hospitalized and then sent to a residential facility.

“He was hospitalized for threats he made to kill you and your husband with a knife while you were sleeping?” Buxton, holding a report, asked, in the final question of the trial.

“I don’t recall that,” Olingy responded.

Christensen, 20, is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of James “J.P.” Vernazzaro, 26, of Beverly, during a confrontation on the playground at Balch Park on St. Patrick’s Day 2011.

Testimony in his trial in Salem Superior Court wrapped up yesterday, and closing arguments are slated for this morning.

On Tuesday, Christensen took the stand in his own defense, admitting that he’d stabbed Vernazzaro and saying he was “scared.”

But yesterday, under cross-examination by the prosecutor, Christensen was forced to admit that he knew that he and co-defendant Adam Martin, then 17, were going to the park for a fight.

There was a large group of teenagers and young adults there expecting to see the confrontation, he acknowledged.

“If I may explain, I didn’t think anyone expected much of a fight because they knew J.P.,” Christensen testified.

“People were saying we weren’t going to win the fight,” he said.

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