Murder victim’s friend details drug deal that preceded killing

  • Daswan Jette looks back as a person he knows enters the courtroom during his murder trial at Merrimack County Superior Court on Jan. 9. Jette is standing trial on first- and second-degree murder charges in connection with the death of Sabrina Galusha. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 1/14/2020 6:59:00 PM

Sam Chase did not typically move forward with a marijuana sale if he did not know the buyer.

He dealt both to support his own addiction and to make a living but avoided any situations he thought were too risky.

However, on the night of May 30, 2017, a potential sale of marijuana to a stranger – who’d recently moved to the area from Boston – piqued his interest. At the time, Chase and his friends hoped to secure enough money to make a down payment on an apartment in Chichester, and he knew the drug deal could help them get closer to their goal.

“I don’t usually meet up with people I don’t know but the apartment was really within reach,” Chase testified Tuesday in Merrimack County Superior Court. “We really needed money at that time.”

The deal at Penacook Place Apartments was supposed to be straightforward and quick but it unraveled from the outset. Within minutes, Chase found himself trying to keep one of his best friends alive.

On Tuesday, Chase testified under oath against the purported marijuana buyer that night, Daswan Jette, who is standing trial on first- and second-degree murder charges in connection with the death of 23-year-old Sabrina Galusha. Prosecutors allege Jette fatally stabbed Galusha in the heart after attempting to rob her of the marijuana outside the apartment complex.

Chase, who is now nearly one year sober, recalled that he had about 3 grams of marijuana – which he had obtained for his personal use – and he needed at least 12 additional grams to equal a half-an-ounce if he was going to see the deal through. Initially, he reached out to an ex-girlfriend to see if she could help him but she later backed out and said she wasn’t interested.

It was then that Chase contacted Galusha.

“She wasn’t my go-to person for the weed at first,” Chase told jurors. “But I’m saying that after the fact, that’s what it led to.”

On that May night, Galusha, Chase and two other friends – Annika Tidd Civetti and Madison Campbell – intended to drive to Penacook Place to meet with the buyer, conduct the sale and then leave and continue on to a bonfire in Contoocook. But Chase said the plan began to fall apart when Jette asked him to weigh the marijuana and it came up less than a half a gram short.

“He said, ‘Yo, what the (expletive) is this man?’ ” Chase recalled of the interaction with Jette.

In response, Chase tapped on the scale to reset it, while also trying to offer an explanation. However, he said, Jette didn’t stick around to listen; instead, he bolted from the car with the bag of marijuana and ran toward the lobby of the apartment building at 36 Pinehurst St.

“I was kind of anticipating something like that would happen – I was just ready for it,” Chase said. “I reached out with my arm and grabbed the back of his sweatshirt.”

But the fabric of the sweatshirt fell through his fingertips, and it was then that Chase said he knew he had to move fast and pursue Jette.

Chase told jurors Tuesday that Jette’s movements put him on guard at the outset of the deal. Specifically, he recalled how Jette had acted almost impaired as he made his way to the car, where the group of friends were waiting. Chase said Jette was wobbling and making an effort to talk slow.

But there was no sign of impairment when Jette ran with the bag of marijuana, Chase said.

“All of a sudden he was quick and precise,” Chase testified.

When Chase caught up with Jette in the vestibule of the apartment complex, he said he observed Jette trying to unlock a second door, which leads into the housing units. He said he pushed Jette into a wall and that it was then that Jette dropped his keys on the floor.

“I said, ‘Come on, man, give me the weed back.’ ” Chase recalled, noting that he told Jette there were better ways to handle the situation than to rob someone.

“I was trying to be calming,” Chase said. “I was trying to relate to him.”

Jette, however, responded by pulling out a knife from his right pocket, Chase said.

“He said, ‘I’m going to stab someone,’ and he was jabbing it like into the air, not in anyone’s direction really.”

Chase recalled that Galusha had run from the car, too, and arrived at the vestibule just a short time after he did. Campbell did too.

“What is Sabrina doing?” Senior Assistant Attorney General Ben Agati asked during direct questioning Tuesday.

“She’s trying to talk him into giving back the weed,” Chase recalled.

Instinctively, he said, he grabbed onto Jette and put him in a headlock because he was concerned that either Galusha or Campbell would get injured. Galusha responded by reaching toward Jette, Chase said.

“She grabs for the weed … or maybe the knife,” he said. “I’m not sure.”

Agati asked Chase if he ever saw Galusha or anyone else hold the knife in the vestibule.

“I thought she had it and that would be why I let him go,” he said.

Campbell, who testified under oath last week, told jurors that she saw Galusha take the knife from Jette and fold it back up. She said she couldn’t clearly recall what happened to the weapon from there.

The friends said when they escaped the vestibule and ran back to their car, Jette was in close pursuit and specifically targeted Galusha. Both Campbell and Chase said they saw Jette reach into the car and act as though he was punching Galusha in the chest at least three times. It was only after Galusha screamed out and they saw the blood that they realized she had been stabbed.

Galusha later died at Concord Hospital. The state medical examiner said she suffered three stab wounds, including the fatal one to her chest.

Chase will retake the stand as the murder trial continues Wednesday in Concord. The trial is scheduled to last through Jan. 24.

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



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