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Two more inmates detail deadly 2010 attack, while third refuses to testify

A second potential eye-witness in the murder trial of William Edic refused to testify yesterday, despite a judge’s orders and just minutes before quietly apologizing to the mother of the man Edic is accused of brutally attacking in 2010.

Allen Nicholson, a former Concord prisoner whom defense attorneys have portrayed as the mastermind in a plot to frame their client for personal gain, took the stand on the third day of testimony in his second-degree murder trial in Merrimack County Superior Court. But after introducing himself and acknowledging briefly that he had been in a fight recently with other inmates, Nicholson refused to say whether he witnessed the July 26, 2010, attack on Anthony Renzzulla.

“I’m not going to answer that question,” he told prosecutor Jay McCormack.

Nicholson declined to respond when asked again, and then when informed by Judge Richard McNamara that he would be found in contempt for doing so.

“Do you understand that, sir?” McNamara said.

“Yep,” Nicholson said.

“Are you going to comply with my order?”

“Nope.”

As he was ushered out of the court, and with jurors temporarily absent, Nicholson turned to Renzzulla’s mother in the gallery and said softly, “I’m sorry.”

Moments later, Nicholson’s wife, Amber Nicholson, identified herself to jurors as the anonymous caller who first tipped off prison guards that Renzzulla was lying badly injured on the second floor of a medium-security unit at the facility. She testified that her husband, who lived in the unit with Renzzulla at the time he was attacked, had called her that morning and said he had seen, in McCormack’s words, “a startling event.”

By the time corrections officers arrived at the scene, Renzzulla was found lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood. He died from his injuries nearly a year and a half later.

Prosecutors continued yesterday to build their case against Edic, now 32, calling two additional inmate witnesses to the stand. One of those, Randall Chapman, said he did not see the assault but had known it was being planned and helped mop up the blood inside the pod where it allegedly occurred.

Chapman, a former member of the Brotherhood of White Warriors, said he had overheard Edic and his alleged accomplice, Thomas Milton, both fellow members, talking about the attack with a high-ranking BOWW official named Frank “Franky” Philbrook. Prosecutors claim Philbrook ordered the ambush because he believed Renzzulla had snitched on two of the gang’s members.

Chapman has previously pleaded guilty to his role in the cleanup and said yesterday that he tried to talk Edic out of carrying out the assault, but that he told him “he was going to do what Franky wanted.”

On cross-examination, Donna Brown, one of Edic’s public defenders, called out inconsistencies in Chapman’s comments since the incident. He initially told prison officials he knew nothing about it or who was involved, she noted, and then filed a motion on his charge from the cleanup in which he called it “ludicrous.”

Chapman said he lied at first in large part because he feared for his safety. He only agreed to come forward, he said, after BOWW ordered a hit on him and his family, including a brother who was also in state prison at the time.

“Probably if my family hadn’t been threatened I would have taken this to my grave,” Chapman said.

But Brown pointed out that he agreed in 2012 to testify in the trial in exchange for transfer out of solitary confinement and into an out-of-state prison, and early release. It wasn’t clear in the weeks before the trial whether Chapman would testify at all, as he was arrested late this spring in Maine on a kidnapping and related felony charges.

The other inmate to testify yesterday, William Morel, said he witnessed the attack on Renzzulla, and watched from inside the second floor pod as Milton “sucker punched” him from behind and then began stomping and kicking him with Edic. Morel’s account was nearly identical to that of his former podmate, Michael Mendoza, who testified earlier in the week.

Morel said he had lied to investigators initially when he told them he hadn’t seen anything, and that he decided to talk because two BOWW members, one of which was Chapman’s brother, had jumped him. He needed protection, he said.

“Are you scared?” prosecutor Peter Hinckley asked.

“I’m terrified,” Morel said, turning to Edic, who was seated at the defense table.

“I didn’t want to be involved in this, I really didn’t,” he told him. “I didn’t want to come up here and say anything to anyone about anything or nothing.”

“I got jumped,” he added, “and that was enough.”

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @jblackmancm)

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