By JULIE MANGANIS STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — SALEM — On the night Peter Ronchi killed his nine-months-pregnant girlfriend, Yulyia Galperina, he’d spent several hours at the home of another woman, jurors in Ronchi’s murder trial learned yesterday.
Susan Slowick Smith, a teacher and fellow parent at Cape Ann Waldorf School, described the friendship she had formed with Ronchi, whose children also attended the Beverly private school.
Over time, their friendship, while platonic, grew closer. They got together every week or two, sometimes with their children and a few times alone.
Despite their growing friendship, however, Ronchi never once mentioned his pregnant girlfriend, Smith testified yesterday.
Smith was the state’s final witness, at least for now, in its case against Ronchi, 48, who is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the death of Galperina, 42, and their unborn son, due to be born within days of the May 16, 2009, stabbing in Galperina’s Salem Heights apartment.
Ronchi, of Marblehead, contends, through his lawyers, that he “snapped” when Galperina told him that the baby she was about to deliver was not his child and that he stabbed her some nine times in the “heat of passion,” defense lawyer John Swomley told jurors during his opening statement in the case earlier this month.
But prosecutor Jean Curran contends that the killing was planned, that Ronchi brought a hunting knife and a change of clothes to Galperina’s apartment that night.
Smith testified that Ronchi seemed fine that night, if a bit tired, when he left her home.
Earlier in the day, state police crime scene analyst Eric Koester testified about what he found at Galperina’s apartment, including numerous bloodstains.
Koester described how he tested a line of blood drops between Galperina’s body, next to the futon she slept on, and the bathroom, where prosecutors believe Ronchi changed his pants and washed up before leaving.
He also showed jurors the blood-soaked maternity T-shirt that Galperina was wearing when she was killed, a shirt riddled with slashes from the stab wounds to her upper chest and her back.
The shirt, which was pulled over a piece of cardboard and then shrink-wrapped, was displayed from the witness stand.
As the defense begins its case, it’s not known whether Ronchi will take the stand. The answer to that may depend on some rulings by Judge David Lowy this morning, before the start of testimony.
The defense is still seeking permission to call witnesses who would testify that Galperina had lied about other matters relating to her children, in order to bolster Ronchi’s claim that he was provoked by the lie that the child was not his (DNA tests later confirmed that the baby was his).
Ronchi’s defense team also plans to call a psychiatrist who evaluated him.
The state would then have a chance to call rebuttal witnesses before the case goes to the jury.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.