SALEM — Nora Bonilla, the woman whom two men were allegedly trying to protect before they were shot in Lynn on Easter Sunday in 2017, testified for more than two hours on Tuesday in Essex Superior Court about the circumstances leading up to the fatal shooting.
But her cross-examination by Robert Sheketoff, the defense attorney for William Cash, the Lynn man charged with the murder, revealed numerous inconsistences in her story and forced Bonilla to reveal that she had lied under oath several times.
Cash, 47, is facing life without the possibility of parole for a shooting that left 46-year-old Lenardo “Lenny” Clement dead and seriously injured his friend, Prince Belin. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial started last Thursday. In addition to offenses related to the shooting, Cash is also charged with trafficking two women for sex, including Bonilla.
Bonilla, 32, described two confrontations with Cash preceding the shooting, which she said she witnessed. She later identified Cash, who she knew as “T” as the shooter to police.
Bonilla, who’s been sober 10 months but was addicted to crack at the time, said she became involved with Cash, or “T” two months before the shooting when she was trying to score crack cocaine through a woman she met in the driveway of her mother’s house, where she had been living.
She said she could tell the woman, Brenda, who went by “Diamond,” was using because she looked high. Bonilla said Diamond helped her get crack that day, and she eventually started visiting Diamond every day at her 72 Mall St. apartment to use drugs.
Prosecutors said Cash was a pimp operating out of 72 Mall St. Bonilla later met Cash through Diamond and another woman living at the apartment house. One day, she overheard Cash referring to her as “top notch” and “green,” but it wasn’t until further conversation with the women that she learned he was allegedly referring to prostitution.
Bonilla said she had sex with Cash on one occasion — although she was using his drugs, she said it was not in exchange for a fee. She said she would see Cash almost every day for about a month at the apartment house.
She testified that she felt “T” took a special interest in her and gave her more attention than the other girls because he had a romantic interest in her.
Bonilla said she tried to end that association when she felt he was trying to prostitute her, but after trying to get away from 72 Mall St., she later ran into Diamond at a corner store, who called Cash to tell him that she had found Bonilla.
Bonilla said she didn’t want to go back to the apartment house, but was lured back with the promise of crack cocaine. When she arrived, she said “T” was happy to see her. Diamond was also rewarded with crack for finding her, Bonilla said.
At this point, Bonilla said she felt she couldn’t get away from the people at 72 Mall St., but tried to leave again and score crack on her own. But the habit was expensive, she said, which left her crying on the stairs outside of Clement’s Washington Street apartment one day because she didn’t feel good and needed more drugs.
Belin was staying with Clement at the time, and asked her what was wrong. The pair started talking and then she started dating him, a two-week relationship that ended on April 16, 2017, the day of the shooting.
During that time period, she was staying at Clement’s apartment, who she believed was Belin’s brother. Belin would help her get drugs, but she said he was trying to wean her off of them with smaller doses.
Prosecutors said Bonilla, Belin and Clement were walking together on Lewis Street on Easter Sunday after spending the morning at church.
Bonilla testified she doesn’t remember going to church because she was high and disoriented from taking pills that morning, but remembers walking into a store and bank and having two separate interactions with Cash, one of which turned deadly. She testified that she felt like a “zombie” after taking the drugs.
The first encounter Bonilla mentioned was when Cash was in what investigators described as a silver Chrysler 300. She said she didn’t remember what type of car it was, but that it had a distinctive eagle design on it. She said “T” told her to come to him and when she went closer, Belin walked up to the car and told Cash not to talk to her. This led to Cash reacting with what Bonilla perceived as a threatening gesture before driving away.
“It made me feel like there was going to be a problem,” Bonilla said. “I just felt something inside me like something was wrong.”
Bonilla said the second encounter quickly escalated. The second time was near Clement’s apartment. Cash was walking this time, Bonilla said, and she heard her name called in an angrier voice than before. She said Belin told her to run inside but she ignored him and stayed there.
Belin confronted Cash again, Bonilla said, yelling at him to leave her alone. But Cash didn’t start shooting until Clement stepped in and told him to calm down. He pointed his gun at Clement first and after shooting at him several times, turned the gun on Belin.
“He looked at me like he was going to shoot me too, like he thought about it,” Bonilla said, adding that the shooting that left Clement bleeding on the ground and Belin leaning against a pole wounded left her in shock. “I was just looking. I couldn’t move.”
Then, Bonilla said Cash left in a car. But that was just one inconsistency that Sheketoff pointed out during his cross-examination. She had testified to the grand jury that she did not see how he left because she had turned her attention to Belin and Clement after they were shot, according to a transcript of the testimony Sheketoff read in court.
“You know how to lie, don’t you?” Sheketoff asked Bonilla.
He pointed out several instances where her testimony on Tuesday contrasted with the testimony she gave to the grand jury on an earlier occasion, which led to her admitting that she had lied under oath to the grand jury.
Bonilla said she lied because she was ashamed of being addicted to crack and of prostituting herself when she lived in Connecticut during a six-month period before moving back to Lynn.
For instance, Sheketoff said Monday night when prosecutors were prepping Bonilla for her testimony was the first time she admitted to using crack at 72 Mall St. Bonilla testified to the grand jury that she had not done so. She had also previously said she had not prostituted herself before coming to Lynn, which she admitted to on Tuesday.
The trial resumes on Wednesday at 9 a.m.