Lawyer for man charged in deadly crime spree wants separate trials 

Brian Brito

SALEM — The lawyer for a New Hampshire man charged in a deadly crime spree back in 2017 — that included the shooting death of a young Salem man delivering food — told a judge Monday he wants separate trials for each of Brian Brito's alleged crimes. 

During a hearing Monday in Salem Superior Court, defense lawyer John Cunha said he is planning to file what is known as a motion to sever by next month. Judge Salim Tabit scheduled a hearing on Oct. 6. 

Brito, 26, who was living in Manchester, New Hampshire, at the time of the crimes in March 2017, is facing charges that include first-degree murder in the death of Mohammedreza "Sina" Zangiband, 24, of Salem, who was delivering food in Lynn to earn money while working to become a pilot. Zangiband and his family had immigrated to the United States from Iran when he was a child.

Police believe that the March 27 shooting was unprovoked and the result of a "road rage" incident. 

After that shooting, prosecutors allege that Brito eventually made his way to Chickering Road in North Andover, where he laid in wait outside a Richdale store, as a clerk was closing for the night. He allegedly went into the store and forced the woman working there into a back room, where he raped her, then robbed the register. 

He was spotted driving on Route 1 in Peabody later that night and arrested; police found a gun that was subsequently linked to a March 25 shooting in Lawrence that injured two women, one from Haverhill and the other from Sandown, New Hampshire. 

Brito is charged in one indictment with the murder, the rape and robbery, and with firearms charges. A second indictment was handed up after evidence linked the gun to the earlier Lawrence shootings. 

Cunha has not yet filed the motion stating the basis for his request.

Prosecutors can try separate charges together if they show the alleged acts are part of a course of conduct or single event. 

Typically, defense lawyers file motions to sever cases into separate trials out of concerns that juries could be prejudiced by hearing evidence of multiple crimes at the same time, or sometimes when they plan different defense strategies on the various charges. 

Brito's current and former attorneys have told the court he will rely on what is colloquially known as an insanity defense in his case.  A prosecutor on Monday told the court she's provided Cunha with the results of an evaluation by an expert hired by the prosecution. That evaluation and testing was the subject of a series of hearings earlier this year where Cunha sought access to information about the specific psychological tests the prosecution experts planned to administer. 

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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