‘I felt threatened’: Defendant Daswan Jette takes stand near end of Concord murder trial

  • Daswan Jette demonstrates the chokehold he says Sam Chase had on him in the vestibule on the night of the death of Sabrina Galusha at his murder trial at Merrimack County Superior Court on Thursday, January 23, 2020.

  • Daswan Jette demonstrates how he says he was holding the knife in the vestibule on the night of the death of Sabrina Galusha at his murder trial at Merrimack County Superior Court on Thursday, January 23, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Daswan Jette demonstrates the chokehold Sam Chase he says had on him in the vestibule on the night of the death of Sabrina Galusha at his murder trial at Merrimack County Superior Court on Thursday, January 23, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Daswan Jette demonstrates he says how Sam Chase pushed him down in the vestibule on the night of the death of Sabrina Galusha at his murder trial at Merrimack County Superior Court on Thursday, January 23, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Daswan Jette looks at the knife he was holding in the vestibule on the night of the death of Sabrina Galusha at his murder trial at Merrimack County Superior Court on Thursday, January 23, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Daswan Jette demonstrates how he says he was holding the knife in the vestibule on the night of the death of Sabrina Galusha at his murder trial at Merrimack County Superior Court on Thursday, January 23, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Daswan Jette gestures as he says he was not sure where the car was in the parking lot the night of the murder at his murder trial at Merrimack County Superior Court on Thursday, January 23, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 1/23/2020 7:04:04 PM

Accused murderer Daswan Jette told jurors Thursday that he did not know his knife had stabbed 23-year-old Sabrina Galusha during a drug deal at Penacook Place.

“Did I purposefully stab Sabrina? No, I didn’t,” Jette said under oath in the third week of his murder trial in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord.

“You don’t remember that knife going into Sabrina three times?” Senior Assistant Attorney General Ben Agati asked from the lectern positioned just feet from the witness stand.

“No, I don’t,” Jette replied.

Testifying in his own defense for hours Thursday, Jette told jurors his recollection of the events as they unfolded on the night of May 30, 2017. He was sworn in as the defense’s first witness, less than an hour into the 12th day of trial.

Jette is facing first- and second-degree murder charges in connection with Galusha’s death. After prosecutors excused their last witness Thursday, public defender Caroline Smith argued unsuccessfully for the dismissal of the first-degree murder indictment. Judge John Kissinger Jr. quickly ruled that the state had met its burden of proof, and that it would be up to the jury to determine the credibility of witnesses, including three of Galusha’s friends who say they witnessed the fatal attack.

On that night more than two years ago, Jette said, he was a victim of an assault and feared for his life after Galusha and two of her friends followed him into the vestibule of his apartment building at 36 Pinehurst St., where he had been staying with his then-girlfriend. He told jurors that he only pulled out a knife in the vestibule because he was trying to defend himself against Galusha, Sam Chase and Madison Campbell, all of whom had their hands on him.

“I felt threatened,” Jette told public defender Alexander Vitale during direct questioning. “My intention wasn’t to stab somebody; my intention was to keep them at bay. That didn’t work.”

Chase, Campbell and Annika Tidd Civetti – who drove the group to Penacook Place – all testified previously that Jette had attempted to steal the half-ounce bag of marijuana from them after asking Chase to weigh it. However, Jette told jurors Thursday that he dashed because Chase had stolen his cellphone and an unspecified amount of cash, both of which had fallen out of his sweatshirt pocket in the car when he retrieved his blue scale.

“Sam like grabbed my money and my phone and that freaked me out, and I was like, ‘What is going on,’ and I ran out of the car,” Jette said, noting that the bag of marijuana was in his hand at the time.

“What did you think was going on?” Vitale asked.

“He was trying to rob me,” Jette replied.

The charges filed against Jette specifically allege that he pulled out a knife and stabbed Galusha during the commission of a robbery. But Jette testified Thursday that he never intended to rob anyone, and that he had the requested $150 in cash to buy the half-ounce of marijuana from Chase.

He said he didn’t recall what he did with the marijuana as he ran from the parking lot, where Civetti’s black Chevy Cruze was parked, to the vestibule. He told jurors his primary concern was his safety.

Once inside the vestibule, he said, either Chase or Galusha grabbed him and pushed him up against the wall, preventing him from unlocking the second door to the apartment building. Chase testified previously that he was the first one in the vestibule behind Jette and he had pushed Jette only so he couldn’t escape inside.

“Right as I’m pulling my knife out a third person comes in,” Jette said, referring to Campbell.

He said he had the folding knife clipped to the right pocket of his sweatshirt, and that when he pulled it out, he held it close to his body and told them something to the effect of, “back the (expletive) off.”

At that point, Jette said, Chase had him in a chokehold and Galusha grabbed ahold of his arm – the one holding the knife.

“His arm was around my neck, cutting off circulation from both sides,” Jette said of Chase.

Jette said he had trouble breathing and was trying to use his legs to fight back and “wiggle” himself out of the chokehold.

“The knife was in my hand – it was everywhere. I was yanking and pulling to get free,” he said.

The folding knife that Jette always carried on him ended up on the floor of the vestibule. Jette said he isn’t quite sure how it got there because everything happened so fast.

“I know Sam pushed me to the ground and they took off running,” he said.

Once the three friends were gone, Jette said, he grabbed the knife off the floor, refolded it, and picked up his keys. He said he returned to his apartment confused by what had taken place.

“I was shocked, just out of breath,” he said. “I was pacing back and forth a little bit.”

When he went to bed a few hours later, he didn’t know that anyone had been injured. He said he didn’t see blood on the folding knife, on his hands or on his sweatpants.

That next morning, Concord police detectives woke Jette up by knocking on his apartment door. He said officers told him they were there to execute a search warrant of the apartment and to take him to the police department to execute a separate search of his body for potential injuries.

At the police station, Jette waived his Miranda rights and agreed to answer detectives’ questions. But he said in court Thursday that much of what he told investigators were lies.

“When you lied to police you were trying not to get in trouble, right?” Agati asked Jette at the start of cross-examination.

“I was trying to figure out what was going on,” Jette told him.

Jurors listened Wednesday afternoon to Jette’s recorded interview with Concord police on the morning of May 31, 2017, the day after Galusha’s death. In that interview, he told police that he was unaware of an altercation in the vestibule the prior evening, and that he hadn’t left the apartment that night except to walk his girlfriend to the car, sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. He told them about marijuana they would find in the apartment but denied that anyone had visited him that night for a drug deal.

Agati accused Jette of lying from the outset and of continuing to recant false narratives before jurors Thursday.

“You would agree that anyone who is charged with murder has a powerful motive to take the stand and lie?” Agati asked.

“I didn’t go out and murder anyone,” Jette said, adding, “I was defending myself.”

New Hampshire Medical Examiner Jennie Duval, who testified earlier this week, performed the autopsy of Galusha’s body. She told jurors that Galusha had three fresh penetrating wounds, including one about six inches deep in her chest. While Galusha’s friends say she suffered that fatal wound after Jette pursued her back to the car from the vestibule, Jette told jurors he never went back to the car that night and, instead, retreated to his apartment.

He also said he didn’t know anything about a steak knife that police had located just outside the vestibule. That knife – or one similar with a longer blade – more likely penetrated Galusha’s chest than the folding knife, Duval said.

“If you did go back to the car, this is murder, plain and simple, isn’t it?” Agati pressed Jette.

“I didn’t go back to the car,” Jette responded.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319 or at adandrea@cmonitor.com.)



Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy