SALEM — There’s no question Nora Bonilla, the woman who witnessed a fatal Easter Sunday double shooting in Lynn two years ago, believes William Cash is the shooter, said defense attorney Robert Sheketoff.
“The question is: is she right?”
That was the question Sheketoff posed to the jury during his closing statements on Monday afternoon in Essex Superior Court.
Cash, 47, is facing life without the possibility of parole for a 2017 shooting that left 46-year-old Lenardo “Lenny” Clement, who was legally blind and disabled, dead and seriously injured his friend, Prince Belin. He has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors said, and earlier in the trial, Bonilla, 32, testified that she was the woman the two men were trying to protect before Cash allegedly opened fire in Central Square. Surveillance video shows Bonilla, Clement and Belin walking together down Lewis and then Broad Street, before different footage shows them together at the eventual crime scene where parts of the shooting are captured on video.
“If you look at that (surveillance) video and you’re positive it’s my client, they’re entitled to a conviction,” Sheketoff said. “But if you’re not, I’m entitled to an acquittal.”
Bonilla, a crack addict at the time of the homicide, testified that she knew Cash, whom she knew as “T,” months before the shooting because he would provide her with crack cocaine at 72 Mall St., where prosecutors said he operated a prostitution ring. She said she tried to get away after he tried to pimp her out, and then began dating Belin. Two hours after the shooting, she identified Cash as the culprit.
Sheketoff spent his remarks trying to convince the jury that Bonilla was a liar and not someone who should be believed. He pointed out instances where her testimony to the grand jury of the circumstances of the shooting, and the details leading up to it, differed from what she told the court during the trial.
“I suggest that to believe her is a stretch too far,” Sheketoff said. “You would never do it in your personal lives and you shouldn’t do it here.”
But Essex Assistant District Attorney Susan Dolhun said during her closing remarks that Bonilla’s case is common among people who have experienced a trauma, such as seeing two men she knew get gunned down in broad daylight.
The incident left her in shock, and Bonilla testified that her memory of the day’s events was scrambled, but she never wavered in identifying Cash as the shooter, Dolhun said.
“When all of us experience trauma, (we) don’t remember (the) details, but we remember a moment in time,” Dolhun said. “The single most clear moment in time she remembers from April 16, 2017 is when ‘T’ started shooting at them.”
Dolhun said Bonilla admitted to lying to the grand jury, but that she told the court it was because she was ashamed of being known as a crack addict and former prostitute.
Dolhun used her remarks to try to convince the jury that Cash committed first-degree murder, which she said was premeditated. Cash killed Clement and shot Belin because he couldn’t have Bonilla, someone he wanted both in a business and romantic sense, she said.
“Bonilla’s credibility is up for you to decide, but if you believe her word, then that’s enough for a first-degree murder conviction,” Dolhun said.
Two confrontations between Cash, and Belin, Clement and Bonilla precede the shooting, the first of which was a chance encounter that Cash saw as his opportunity to get Bonilla back, Dolhun said. When Belin and Clement deny him that opportunity, Dolhun said Cash feels angry and disrespected and that’s when the murder becomes premeditated.
Cash switches cars and confronts the three again in Central Square, this time on foot, and is again denied the chance to speak with Bonilla, Dolhun said.
When Clement tells her to leave him alone, Dolhun said that set him off and he began repeatedly shooting, nine times at close range, first at Clement and then at Belin. Clement was shot three times, once in the heart, likely dying within minutes, and Belin was shot twice from behind, she said.
Dolhun said a man driving by, a witness who testified earlier, said he heard Clement say to Cash, “stop, this is not necessary,” before shots are fired.
“Those were Lenny’s last words, and he was right,” Dolhun said. “This was not necessary.”
Cash’s trial began two weeks ago and closed on Monday. The jury is deliberating over his charges, which in addition to murder and other offenses related to the shooting, include trafficking two women for sex, including Bonilla. It’s unclear when a verdict will be reached.