Defense denies slaying plotted; Fight led to stabbing.
WORCESTER - "Bad blood" between two groups of young men led to the fatal stabbing of Daniel Columbo during a fight three years ago outside his Milford home, a prosecutor told a Worcester Superior Court jury yesterday.
Defense lawyer John G. Swomley conceded in his opening statement to the jury that his client, Patrick I. Powell, inflicted the stab wound that pierced the heart and lung of 21-year-old Mr. Columbo on the night of Jan. 6, 2006, but maintained Mr. Powell was defending himself and a friend at the time.
"What Patrick Powell did that night was not murder," Mr. Swomley told the jury as Mr. Powell's trial on a charge of murder got under way.
Assistant District Attorney Eduardo O. Velazquez had earlier told the jurors he expected to prove the killing was planned and committed with malice, two elements of first-degree murder.
Mr. Powell and another 19-year-old Milford man, Vinnie Ruscitti, were both 16 when they were charged with Mr. Columbo's murder. Mr. Ruscitti, who was a neighbor of Mr. Columbo's and is charged as a joint venturer in the killing, is awaiting trial.
Mr. Velazquez said in his opening statement there was ill will between Mr. Ruscitti and a group of his friends and the older Mr. Columbo and his friends. The prosecutor said there was talk of a fight that was to occur the night Mr. Columbo was stabbed.
Mr. Velazquez told the jury Mr. Columbo confronted Mr. Powell, Mr. Ruscitti and two co-defendants, Joshua Phipps and Steven Carvalho, outside his home at 26 Carroll St., Milford, before Mr. Powell "plunged that knife into Danny Columbo's heart." Mr. Phipps and Mr. Carvalho, charged as accessories, are also awaiting trial.
Mr. Swomley said the evidence would show Mr. Columbo was the "first aggressor." He said Mr. Columbo knocked down Mr. Ruscitti with a punch and had thrown a punch at Mr. Powell when Mr. Powell reacted by pulling a knife from his pocket and reaching forward with the weapon, stabbing Mr. Columbo in the chest.
"The evidence will show you what Patrick Powell did was self-defense and defense of another," Mr. Swomley told the jurors.
Anjeana Washington, who was called as a witness by Mr. Velazquez, testified yesterday that she was at a friend's house several hours before the stabbing when she overheard Mr. Ruscitti saying he and Mr. Powell were going to fight Mr. Columbo.
Later that night, Mr. Powell showed up at the friend's house with blood on his hands and jacket, according to Ms. Washington. She said Mr. Powell called the stabbing "an accident."
In response to questions from Mr. Velazquez, however, Ms. Washington acknowledged that she never told police Mr. Powell said the stabbing was accidental.
Ms. Washington also testified that she was with another friend, Melissa Gildersleeve, when Ms. Gildersleeve allegedly disposed of the knife used by Mr. Powell in a storm drain.
Testimony was to resume today.
CUTLINE: Mr. Powell
NOTE: 2006 INCIDENT
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|Title Annotation:||LOCAL NEWS|
|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||May 29, 2009|
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