Final witnesses testify in murder trial of Daswan Jette

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

Monitor staff
Published: 1/24/2020 6:01:21 PM

By the afternoon of the 13th day of trial, 17 jurors had heard the last of the evidence in the murder case against Daswan Jette.

Several former and current Concord police officers, a criminalist with the state’s forensic lab and an ex-neighbor of Jette’s at Penacook Place all testified as witnesses at the request of the defense on Thursday afternoon and Friday. Public defenders Caroline Smith and Alexander Vitale also chose to recall two of the murder victim’s friends after learning during the trial that their initial interviews at the Concord Police Department had been video and not just audio recorded.

After closing arguments on Monday morning, the case will go to the jury for deliberations, with 12 jurors ultimately deciding Jette’s guilt or innocence.

Jette, 23, is standing trial this month in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord on charges of first- and second-degree murder in connection with the death of Sabrina Galusha on the evening of May 30, 2017. His attorneys had tried unsuccessfully Thursday morning to get the first-degree murder charge – which carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole – thrown out.

Prosecutors with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office allege that Jette fatally stabbed Galusha, a Concord native, in the chest during the commission of a robbery and, more specifically, a drug deal gone bad. Witnesses say Jette stole a half-ounce of marijuana from Galusha and her friends and prompted an altercation that resulted in Galusha’s death.

Conversely, Jette maintains he acted in self-defense that spring night when he pulled out a folding knife after being pursued by the friends into the vestibule of his apartment complex at 36 Pinehurst St. He took the stand in his own defense Thursday and told jurors that he did not know he had stabbed anyone in the vestibule. Further, he said, he never followed Galusha back to the car where the drug deal had been initiated.

Krystal Zielonko, a former resident of Penacook Place, told jurors Friday that she was watching television on the night of May 30, 2017, when she heard the buzzer to her apartment go off multiple times. She said the buzzers, which are in the lobby of the vestibule, sometimes ring to random apartments if a visitor is trying to get inside or if a resident forgot his or her keys.

It wasn’t until she heard loud screaming in the parking lot that she got up and looked outside the sliding doors to her porch, which overlooks the parking lot at 36 Pinehurst St.

“My dog had been upset,” Zielonko said. “She had her head in the curtain and had been looking through the window.”

She said she saw two – or possibly three – people running from around the side of the building to a black car with temporary plates. She thought she heard two doors shut.

“At the time, I didn’t think anything was happening so I closed the curtain and sat back down,” Zielonko said.

The next morning, she was approached by an officer who asked if she’d seen or heard anything unusual the night before.

In her initial statement, Zielonko didn’t tell police specifically where she had seen the black car parked when at least two individuals got inside. But on Friday she testified that she thought the vehicle was in the roadway and not in a designated parking space adjacent to the building.

The three friends who were with Galusha on May 30, 2017, testified that Jette returned from the vestibule to the car and stabbed Galusha while the car was still parked. Jurors heard previously from several witnesses that Galusha’s friend, Annika Tidd Civetti, was driving a black Chevy Cruze that night with temporary plates.

After Galusha was stabbed, her friends had attempted to get her to Concord Hospital. However, during the drive, Civetti called 911 because Galusha’s condition was deteriorating rapidly. Civetti ultimately pulled the car over at Swenson Granite Works on North State Street, where first responders rendered Galusha aid.

Concord police Officer Daniel White, who was one of the first officers at Swenson Granite, spoke separately to both Sam Chase and Civetti at the scene about what had unfolded. Initially, he said neither witness was truthful about how they ended up at Penacook Place. However, he said he soon learned from both Chase and Civetti that there had been a plan to sell marijuana.

The friends testified before jurors previously that they had lied to police at first and didn’t come clean about the drug deal because they didn’t want anyone to get into trouble.

In the early-morning hours of May 31, 2017, White was assigned to a security detail at Penacook Place where detectives were still combing the scene for evidence. He said he stood guard at the corner of the apartment building, not far from the vestibule, where he could see into Jette’s apartment on the second floor at roughly 1:30 a.m.

During his time there, White said, he saw a “skinny, black male with short hair” walk behind the sliding doors to the porch, walk the opposite direction and then return with what appeared to be a broomstick in his hand. When the man walked by the fourth time, he appeared to be empty-handed.

Jette testified previously that he retired to his apartment after the altercation in the vestibule and went to bed at about 11 o’clock.

Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled to begin Monday at 9 a.m.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319 or at

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