Fratantonio acted on ‘primitive emotion’; Testimony in murder trial focuses on intensity of attack on wife — (Cape Cod Times)

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Cape Cod Times

posted Jun 7, 2018 at 8:40 PM

BARNSTABLE – Mary Fratantonio suffered 34 knife wounds delivered in about 20 stabbing blows as she lay in bed early on Feb 28, 2017, according to Dr. Katherine Lindstrom, a state medical examiner who was the final prosecution witness in Christopher Fratantonio’s murder trial Thursday.

The first defense witness, a forensic psychiatrist, said Fratantonio was acting on “primitive emotion” when he stabbed his wife to death. That emotion diminished his capacity to act rationally, Dr, Wade Myers testified.

Fratantonio, who is charged with murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon allegedly stabbed his wife at their home on Trout Brook Road in Cotuit. The couple’s 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son were in the house at the time.

Mary (“Molly”) Fratantonio was a special education teacher at Barnstable High School.

During the medical examiner’s lengthy testimony in Barnstable Superior Court, Christopher Fratantonio sat between his attorneys, slightly crouched and head bowed.

The weapon, a kitchen knife that Fratantonio admitted to wielding in police interviews recorded in the hours after the killing, penetrated more than 6 inches in some areas, Lindstrom said.

One of Christopher Fratantonio’s attorney’s, Colleen Duarte, unsuccessfully argued against showing six autopsy photos to the jury.

Judge Gray Nickerson denied her request. “Photos are relevant as to the extreme atrocity and cruelty and intent to murder”, he said. Before the photos were shown, Nickerson cautioned the jury: “Your verdict cannot in any way be influenced by the fact that these photos are graphic and gruesome.”

“Sympathy for the victim and emotion should be left out of your deliberation”, the judge said.

Defense attorney Colleen Duarte brought in Myers, who said he believed it was a combination of medical conditions and and situational stress that caused Fratantonio to grab the chef’s knife and head upstairs to kill his wife.

Fratantonio suffered from lingering symptoms of post-traumatic stress related to sexual abuse by a step-father, Myers said.  He also had two concussions as a young adult, with the second leaving him with color blindness.

He had a dependence disorder that made him fear that the subject of his dependence – his wife –  would abandon him, and he had stopped taking his medication for anxiety and depression two weeks before the killing, Myers testified.

The couple had a troubled history.  Fratantonio told the police that his wife was addicted to pain medication and that he used most of his salary to cover the cost of the pills – up to $250 per day.

He had been sleeping on the couch for about four years, he told police in a recorded interview played for jurors. Text messages on his phone showed the couple each declaring their love and their hatred for each other, state trooper Shawn Hatchell testified.

In the hours before the stabbing, Fratantonio scrolled through texts between his wife and a man  he believed she was having an affair with. He went upstairs to confront her, and she said she wanted a divorce, something she had brought up a number of times in the months before her death, according to the recorded interview.

The defense is scheduled to call one more witness Friday, after which attorneys for both sides will make closing arguments and the jury will begin deliberations.

follow Christine Legere on Twitter: @ChrisLegerCCT