Man charged with crime-spree murder will mount insanity defense

File photoAn attorney for Brian Brito, the man charged with murdering a Salem man and raping and robbing a woman in North Andover in 2017, will mount a so-called insanity defense. 

SALEM — The lawyer for a New Hampshire man charged with murdering a Salem man, raping and robbing a woman at a North Andover convenience store and shooting two women over a several-day period in 2017 will mount a so-called insanity defense, he told a judge Wednesday.

Brian Brito, 23, of Manchester, New Hampshire, is charged with first-degree murder in the March 27, 2017, shooting death of Mohammedreza Sina Zangiband, 24, during what may have started as a road rage incident in Lynn, where Zangiband was delivering food. 

Brito is also charged with traveling to North Andover later that evening, where prosecutors say he laid in wait as a female clerk at a Richdale store on Chickering Road prepared to close the store for the night. He is charged with forcing the woman into a back room and sexually assaulting her, then robbing the registers. 

The woman told police that before he left, Brito alluded to the earlier shooting, thanked her for her cooperation and threw some of the money he'd just taken toward her. 

Police spotted him driving on Route 1 in Peabody about an hour after that and arrested him; the gun they found linked him to a March 25, 2017, shooting in Lawrence that left two women, one from Haverhill and the other from Sandown, New Hampshire, with non-fatal injuries. 

Brito's attorneys have previously said they were considering a defense of lack of criminal responsibility in the case, but until Wednesday no formal notice had been filed. 

Such a defense would be based on the argument that Brito was not capable of appreciating the wrongfulness of his conduct or that he was unable to control his actions at the time of the crimes. 

A Worcester psychiatrist, Dr. Fabian Saleh, has completed his evaluation and report on Brito. Defense laywer Joseph Collins filed the notice with the court on Wednesday.

That formal notice now allows prosecutors Jessica Strasnick and Maria Markos to hire their own expert to evaluate Brito, a process that is expected to take months. 

Salem Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Karp agreed to schedule a status hearing for Oct. 3 in the case. 

Zangiband, whose family had immigrated from Iran, was studying to become a pilot and had been working part-time for Atha's Famous Roast Beef in Lynn delivering food when he was killed. 

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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