, Salem, MA

Local News

May 20, 2011

Three teens indicted in beating death

BEVERLY — A grand jury yesterday indicted two teenage boys on first-degree murder charges and a teenage girl on an accessory to murder charge in the St. Patrick's Day stabbing and beating death of a Beverly man.

Sajan Christensen, 18, and Adam Martin, 17, are accused of killing James "J.P." Vernazzaro, 26, in a dispute over a girl at Balch Playground on March 17.

Melissa Hicks, 17, has been indicted on a charge of being an accessory to murder after the fact, according to Essex District Attorney spokesman Steve O'Connell. O'Connell said Hicks' alleged role in the killing will be disclosed at the arraignment, which is scheduled for May 26 in Salem Superior Court.

Christensen, Martin and Hicks were all residents of a group home on Blaine Avenue in Beverly run by Supporting and Assisting Independent Living (SAIL), a program for at-risk teens.

Prosecutors say Martin and Christensen had been exchanging phone calls with Vernazzaro that day and that the argument escalated into a challenge to fight.

They met up at Balch Playground, where prosecutors say Vernazzaro was struck with a baseball bat and stabbed with a knife. Police found Vernazzaro unconscious with stab wounds to his back and chest, as well as wounds to his head.

Defense lawyers say Christensen and Martin acted in self-defense.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or by email at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News

AP Video
Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee Senators Push to End Hamas Threat in Cease-Fire A Young Victim's Premonition, Hug Before MH17 U.N. School in Gaza Hit by Israeli Strike Raw: Deadly Storm Hits Virginia Campground Officials Warn of Avoidable Death in Hot Cars Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' House Committee at Odds Over Obama Lawsuit Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: UN School Used As Shelter Hit by Tank Shell Raw: Gunmen Attack Iraqi Prison Convoy Plane Leaves Ukraine With More Crash Victims The Rock Brings Star Power to Premiere Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record
Comments Tracker