WORCESTER — Ordered to appear in Worcester Superior Court, the wife of Nicolas Dutan Guaman said Wednesday she was working Aug. 20, 2011, when prosecutors say her husband
Speaking through a Spanish language interpreter, Maria Yupangui said she was working that afternoon and evening at New England Steak and Seafood restaurant in Mendon. She said she learned of the crash when her sister-in-law called her at 10 p.m.
Under questioning by a state prosecutor, she said she had not seen her husband drinking alcohol that afternoon, before he drove her to work in the family's pickup truck. She said she was not aware of his plans for that evening, but that he was to take care of their then 6-year-old son.
Prosecutors say Guaman was driving the Ford F-150 when it struck Denice, a 23-year-old motorcyclist who had the right of way on Congress Street. Denice died as a result of injuries in the crash, after he was dragged for a quarter-mile, according to police.
Guaman is charged with second-degree murder and several other felony offenses. and said he had secured a neuropsychologist who would testify to that effect. In addition, attorney Peter Ettenberg said, a court-appointed psychologist who examined Guaman on Wednesday also said he had a preliminary finding that Guaman is not competent. "He has no idea how the court system works. He has no idea about an understanding of the charges against him," Ettenberg said.
The issue of the defendant's competency has not yet been determined by the court. The court-appointed psychologist will complete a more extensive examination at Bridgewater State Hospital before turning in a report.
Ettenberg identified the neuropsychologist he hired to evaluate Guaman as Paul Spirs, of Danvers. "He said he gave him a number of tests, and he failed, miserably."
Yupangui, Guaman's wife and the mother of their four children, was the first Guaman family member to be deposed as a witness in the case. State prosecutors also plan to take depositions from the now- 7-year-old son, who was a passenger in the pickup truck, Guaman's brother, his sister-in-law and 9-year-old niece.
The purpose of the depositions is to secure their testimony should the family members not be available at trial, either through deportation from the U.S., or flight, according to prosecutors. A judge ordered the depositions videotaped for future reference, but reserved the right for the trial judge to decide whether portions of the depositions can be withheld as trial testimony.
In questioning Yupangui, Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Travers solicited responses from her that demonstrated her husband understood basic traffic rules, including to stop for red lights and stop signs, understood how to get to her workplace and back, supported the family through his work as a contractor, and was able to handle money responsibly.
Ettenberg objected to the collection of depositions before the issue of Guaman's competency was addressed, but was overruled by Superior Judge Daniel Wrenn.
Under questioning, Yupangui, 33, was unemotional, stating several times she did not understand the questions being asked. She said she did not know anything of the events of the crash, but stated her son, who was a passenger in the Ford F-150 pickup, was "traumatized" by it.
Under questioning from Ettenberg, she said she did not want her son to have to answer questions about the night. "I asked the social worker if they could not do any questions to my son, because my son was traumatized."
Following the crash, a psychologist went to meet with her son daily, she said. "He suffers a lot. I don't want people asking questions of him, because he's still a child."
Prosecutors had hoped to take the deposition of the son, first, before any other witness, because he was in the truck that night. But Wren ordered that the adult witnesses have the depositions taken first.
The Guaman family members will be ordered to return to court on July 23 for the remainder of the depositions.
The family of Matthew Denice, who attended the hearing, said they do not believe that Guaman is mentally incompetent, and said they were discouraged by this turn in the case.
Michael Maloney, Matthew's stepfather, noted that Guaman had provided for his family for seven years in the U.S. "I have a hard time finding an argument that he's not competent to stand trial."
At one point in the hearing, Travers referred to Matthew Denice by name, drawing a reaction from Yupangui that indicated she didn't know who he was talking about.
A reporter for New England Cable News Network asked Maureen Maloney, Matthew's mother, about this moment: "It's just another stab in the heart," Maloney said, outside the courthouse. "She obviously knows my son's name. To disrespect him like that, is very painful."