SALEM — Both a judge and defense lawyers for the Marblehead man charged with stabbing his nine-months pregnant girlfriend, killing both her and the full-term baby boy she was carrying, suggested that prosecutors offer Peter Ronchi a plea deal in the case.
It’s not clear whether Salem Superior Court Judge Garry Inge knew all of the details yesterday in the May 2009 death of Yulyia Galperina, 42, and the baby when he suggested prosecutors consider offering Ronchi, 48, a deal in the case.
The suggestion came as lead prosecutor Jean Curran, who is recovering from a back injury, requested a two-week delay in the start of the trial.
The trial had been scheduled, after a series of delays, to start on Monday.
Curran told the judge she is undergoing treatment for a herniated disk and expects to be ready for trial by Oct. 9, though she acknowledged that her recovery could take somewhat longer.
Defense attorney John Swomley said he had been made aware of the request, but complained to the judge that he thought the delay would be for just a week, not the two requested by the prosecutor.
Swomley then told the judge that prosecutors had opted not to make any pre-trial plea offers.
“I have a hunch that will happen now,” Inge responded, shortly before the court took a half-hour recess.
But Inge was wrong.
Ronchi is charged with stabbing Galperina nine times with a knife he allegedly brought with him to her Salem Heights apartment, then leaving her and her unborn child, who was scheduled to be delivered later that week, to die. Her body was found in a pool of blood the following morning by her two other children, then 8 and 3.
Because of those circumstances, Ronchi was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder under the theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. The charge carries a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole.
Ronchi’s defense team has indicated it will rely on a defense of diminished mental capacity at the time of the killing.
A plea offer would entail prosecutors offering to reduce the charges, to second-degree murder, which has an option for parole after 15 years, or manslaughter, where the sentences can range from probation to 20 years in prison.
After the recess, Inge asked again whether the two sides had discussed a deal.
When Curran said that she had not, Swomley interjected, “If you want to lean on them, your honor...”
“I think it should be probed,” suggested Inge, saying the prosecutor’s back injury was one reason to plead the case out instead of going to trial.
That’s when Curran briefly described the case for the judge, telling him it involved the killing of a pregnant woman and an unborn child.
“That’s a factor, but I don’t see how it forecloses efforts to achieve a resolution,” said the judge.
The added delay, Swomley also said, could cost him money, since he’s made hotel reservations for the weeks he expected the trial to take place.
Swomley practices in Boston.
He at one point suggested that if Curran’s request led to additional costs for his hotel room, those costs should be paid by the district attorney.
Curran said she could not agree to do something like that.
Inge told the prosecutor he did not see why the district attorney, Jonathan Blodgett, would object to such a request by the defense lawyer.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.