SALEM — In the days before his girlfriend was due to give birth, prosecutors say, Peter Ronchi wanted a way out.
After all, they say in court papers, he’d recently written a will that provided for the two children he had with his ex-wife, but made no reference to the baby boy that Yuliya Galperina, 42, was about to deliver.
So sometime late on the evening of May 16, 2009, he arrived at Galperina’s Salem Heights apartment with a hunting knife. The following morning, Galperina’s body was found in a puddle of blood by her other children, ages 8 and 2.
The nearly full-term baby she was carrying, a baby who would have been viable outside the womb, prosecutors say, also died.
But Ronchi’s defense lawyers say their client was mentally ill at the time, unable to appreciate that what he was doing was wrong or to understand what he was telling police afterward.
Ronchi’s trial on two counts of first-degree murder gets under way tomorrow in Salem Superior Court.
Ronchi, 48, of Marblehead, a Cornell graduate turned struggling massage therapist, confessed to police after his arrest in Connecticut that he’d “snapped” when he learned the child Galperina was carrying was not his.
Prosecutors believe, however, that the baby was, in fact, Ronchi’s.
Ronchi’s lawyers had tried last year to have his confession tossed out as evidence in the case, arguing, among other things, that Ronchi was suffering from extreme exhaustion at the time as a result of killing Galperina, cleaning up and then driving to Connecticut. By the time he was questioned, he’d been up for at least 24 hours, the lawyers argued last year.
But the statement remains evidence, after Judge David Lowy denied the motion.
Lowy will also preside over the trial, which is expected to last anywhere from two to four weeks.
Both sides have submitted lengthy witness lists.
Among those witnesses is Galperina’s son, Mark Altshuler, now 12.
While the boy’s name appears on both the witness lists for the prosecution and the defense, it is the defense that has pushed to bring the boy to Massachusetts from Florida, where he now lives with his father, to testify in the case.
Ronchi’s attorneys have filed motions for out-of-state subpoenas for the boy and his father, Galperina’s ex-husband, intending to call the child to testify about statements he made to investigators about Ronchi’s relationship with his mother.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.