Videotape captures suspect's mother's last moments alive

Michelle Laczkoski

Jurors yesterday heard a mortally wounded Nancy Chiero plead for help from her son Lee, who had just beaten and stabbed her in their Uxbridge home two years ago.

"Say someone broke in, call for an ambulance," Nancy Chiero repeatedly begged of her son as she laid on her basement floor covered in blood.

"I'll call your friends later," her son replied matter-of-factly.

In the fifth day of Lee Chiero's murder trial, a Worcester Superior Court jury watched a video authorities say he made before and after murdering his mother.

On the video, Nancy Chiero, 59, is heard moaning as life ebbed away.

A brief image of her bloody face and matted down hair flashed on the courtroom television screen. For most of the three-minute video, the camera was fixed on a wall while she is heard groaning and gasping for air.

"Why'd you follow me?" he barked at his mother.

Chiero is also heard ranting strange words and phrases in the video excerpt.

"Sosa," he said. "Halloween was a good idea, huh?"

His lawyer, Keith Halpern, is mounting an insanity defense.

Halpern has said Chiero, 37, was schizophrenic, paranoid and believed there was a far-flung conspiracy against him.

He had a history of mental illness and began his decline on Halloween 1999 when he imagined being captured, raped and tortured. A car accident in fall 2005 exacerbated his paranoia, Halpern has said.

Before watching the graphic video, jurors were instructed by Judge Peter W. Agnes Jr. to remain focused on the facts in the case.

"What you can't do is base any decision on that emotion you may feel," he said.

After the tape stopped, Lee Chiero wept in his seat in the courtroom. He sat out of view of the television, but could hear the sound.

Nancy Chiero died on Jan. 15, 2007, from a beating as well as multiple stab wounds to both eyes, a medical examiner testified earlier this week.

The video capturing her death is a short excerpt of the more than 30 tapes and 200 hours of recordings Chiero made dating back to 2005.

The 15 jurors watched more than an hour of video excerpts, with Chiero seen arguing with his mother, rambling to himself in the basement of his mother's home and discussing a civil settlement with a lawyer.

Two days before Nancy Chiero was killed, her son recorded an eerily prescient conversation between him and his mother.

"Karma will come smack you right in the (expletive) face," Lee Chiero yelled.

His mother replied, "Your recordings will get you in trouble."

In other recordings, he called her "Nancy," "whore," and "slam pig."

He accused his mother of lying and cheating him out of money.

"You try to intimidate me, bully me, you won't like what the reaction will be," Chiero said to his mother in the video.

Chiero questioned his mother's finances, inquiring about her savings account and means to buy a new car.

He offered to take off in return for $15,000.

"Fifteen grand and I never have to come back," he said.

Nancy Chiero's boyfriend, Alan Schofield, had described her as subservient.

As her son taunted her, Nancy Chiero offered to make him lunch and offered options of a peanut butter and jelly or turkey sandwich.

"If you want me to do something, I'll do it," Nancy tells her son in one recording.

At one point Lee Chiero badgered his mother about his father, whom he accused of abusing him.

"I'm just curious, mother of the year ... what did you do to console us?" Chiero asked. "After he slapped me around ... what did you do to help me?"

Nancy Chiero recalled trying to comfort her son.

"I tried to talk to him. He did apologize to you. It was wrong. He was an (expletive)," she said.

State Police Trooper John Boland said he watched hours of Chiero's self-made video tapes, but told jurors that he never understood them.

When asked if Boland investigated Chiero's reference to "sosa" or Halloween, the trooper said he was "unable to figure it out."

Nurses from Newton-Wellesley Hospital, where Chiero was arrested the day after his mother's death, testified about treating him for injuries to his right hand.

Nurse Lynn Nikonchuk said she recognized Chiero's name from a segment on the morning news about a murder suspect being sought by police.

"I gasped," Nikonchuk said, after seeing his name on a computer screen.

Referring to his admitting forms, Nikonchuk said Chiero provided his correct name and insurance information and identified his next of kin as his mother, Nancy.

Nurse Sandra Hathaway said Chiero talked about killing himself.

She said he told nurses he thought about driving off a bridge or a road.

Chiero's right hand was swollen and had several scrapes, she said. He said he attempted to hit his mother's boyfriend, missed and hit a door frame or wall, she said.

If Chiero is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed to a state institution, where he would be periodically evaluated to determine if he should be released. If convicted of first-degree murder, he would be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Testimony resumes today at 9 a.m.

Michelle Laczkoski can be reached at mlaczkos@cnc.com or 508-634-7556.

Milford Daily News