SALEM, Mass. — After weeks of texting and messaging back and forth with a classmate, Mathew Borges told Stephanie Soriano his “eyes would look dead soon,” according to testimony in the opening day of his first-degree murder trial in Salem Superior Court.
“Eyes that are dead ... makes you think about what that person has done ... eyes dead, full of darkness. Just big dark eyes. Sad ... Like they have no soul,” Borges said in an audio message sent to Soriano on Nov. 17, 2016.
The following day, Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino, 16, a Lawrence High sophomore, went missing and was later found decapitated on a riverbank off Water Street in Lawrence.
Borges’ first-degree murder trial opened in Salem Superior Court on Monday. Two girls he knew at Lawrence High School testified as the prosecution’s first witnesses.
Leilany DeJesus, who dated Borges for nine months when she was a freshman, said Borges yelled at her and Viloria-Paulino as they ate lunch together at Lawrence High — an action that smacked of jealousy.
A dean had to escort Borges from the lunchroom afterward, she said.
But under cross-examination by the defense, DeJesus admitted she never told investigators Borges was jealous of her friendship with Viloria-Paulino.
She also testified he apologized to her and Viloria-Paulino the next day and that she’d never see Borges yell or physically fight with anyone else.
Borges was among a group of teens who went to Viloria-Paulino’s home Nov. 18, 2016 to rob the fellow Lawrence classmate of video games, clothes and belts, Assistant District Attorney James Gubitose said in his opening statement Monday.
But, Borges, then 15 years old, murdered his classmate and cut off his head and hands, Gubitose said.
“I killed him. ... He’s dead,” Borges allegedly told the other teens, who were interviewed by police.
In a book found in his room, Borges wrote to bring a “duffel bag,” “bring gloves” and “wear bags on shoes,” Gubitose said.
While he went missing Nov. 18, Viloria-Paulino’s decapitated body was not found until Dec. 3, 2016 on the Lawrence riverfront by a man walking his dog.
A state trooper then found the victim’s head in a plastic bag in the nearby river, Gubitose said.
Although he was 15 when the crime occurred, Borges is being tried as an adult on the first-degree murder charge.
Prosecutors said Borges murdered Viloria-Paulino with premeditation and extreme atrocity and cruelty.
The trial is expected to span three weeks.
Viloria-Paulino’s mother, grandparents and other relatives were in court Monday. They were seated on the right side of the gallery, behind the defense table where Borges and his attorneys sat.
Sixteen people were selected for the jury, although only 12 will decide Borges’ fate. Four alternates will be selected before the jury is send to deliberate.
Gubitose told jurors they will be shown text messages, Facebook messages and surveillance video indicating Borges’ guilt.
But defense attorney Ed Hayden, in his opening statement, urged jurors to be suspicious.
He said Borges is guilty of a break-in but not a murder, and stressed the prosecution’s witnesses are unreliable.
Prosecutors have no murder weapon, no tool used for dismemberment, no blood, no fingerprints and no DNA, he said.
Hayden also spoke of the text and Facebook messages in the case.
“In these thousands of messages, there is no evidence,” Hayden said.
He said the teens wrote in the messages about the “F-word, N-word, weed and sex.”
“There are so many factors here. The prosecutor’s theory does not withstand scrutiny,” he said. “He didn’t do it.”
There are five attorneys involved in the murder case.
Gubitose is joined in the prosecution by assistant district attorneys Jessica Strasnick and David O’Sullivan. Hayden and Amy Smith are Borges’ defense attorneys.
Strasnick questioned DeJesus, the first prosecution witness to take the stand. She testified about her nine-month relationship with Borges that ended Aug. 31, 2016.
During their relationship, DeJesus said she saw Borges nearly every day. The did their homework together. And, at his suggestion, they shared a journal where they wrote down their feelings for each other, things they couldn’t say out loud, she said.
Borges wrote “I love you” to her in the beginning of the journal, she said.
“I can’t stop thinking about you. I want to live with you already. ... I don’t know what I’d do if you were gone. And left my life,” Borges wrote, DeJesus said.
However, in this journal, Borges also wrote “bring duffel bags, bring gloves, wear bags on shoes. Wear clothes you don’t care about,” DeJesus testified.
DeJesus testified Borges seemed jealous about her being friends with Viloria-Paulino. When they broke up, Borges also gave her a list of boys he thought she was sleeping with.
Under cross-examination by Smith, DeJesus later said she and Borges broke up because they lost their connection with one another.
Soriano, 18, was then called to the stand. Strasnick asked her many questions about her budding relationship with Borges and the several months they spent texting back and forth and messaging each other privately on Facebook.
She testified she was also friendly with Viloria-Paulino, who she described as similar to “bright sunshine.”
In one message to Soriano, Borges described himself as “a quiet, loyal, over protective person.”
Also in messages, he told her he thought about killing someone.
“I like the sound of it,” he wrote, according to copies of texts and messages Strasnick showed in court.
“I’ll hide in the back of my mind like always and wait for the day I truly go insane,” Borges wrote in the messages to Soriano.
On Nov. 17, 2016, Borges told Soriano his “eyes would look dead soon.”
“Take a good look at my eyes, the next time we talk,” Borges wrote. “People will notice a big difference in me once my eyes turn dead.”
In court Monday, Borges wore a white, button-up shirt, a tie and dark pants. He sat between his two defense attorneys, only looking up occasionally as DeJesus and Soriano testified.
The prosecution is expected to continue calling witnesses Tuesday morning. Lawrence police officers and state troopers who investigated are expected to take the stand.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.