Treehouse murder trial: Julia Enright says she wrote about robbing a grave, not being aroused by killing Brandon Chicklis. After Julia Enright spent Friday morning on the stand in Worcester Superior Court, telling jurors that she stabbed Brandon Chicklis in self-defense after he raped her in a treehouse in 2018, prosecutors worked to unravel her story.
Enright, 24, took the stand in her own trial. Prosecutors have claimed that she fatally stabbed Chicklis, a former boyfriend and high school classmate, on June 23, 2018, inside a treehouse on her neighbor’s Ashburnham property as a surprise gift for her then-current boyfriend, John Lind.
But Enright and her attorney, Louis M. Badwey, have argued that Enright is the victim in the case and was defending herself from Chicklis’ attack by stabbing him and running away.
When Enright took the stand Friday morning, Badwey led her through a description of the June 2018 day, including the assault. Though Enright testified that she had intended to have sex with Chicklis that day, she changed her mind after getting a text from Lind, she said.
She said she and Chicklis were hanging out in the treehouse, a spot where they had sex in high school, when Chicklis started to touch her.
“He just wasn’t stopping and I pulled the knife out,” she said, struggling a little with her words on the stand. Enright said she saw a look in Chicklis’ eyes like she hadn’t seen before. Everything unfolded quickly, she said.
“It was just fear. I wasn’t thinking of anything. I just wanted him to stop. I just wanted to get away,” she said.
After the morning break in court, Prosecutor Terry McLaughlin asked Enright if she had ever fantasied about killing or hurting anyone.
She said no, but that she would have wanted people to think that about her when she was younger, adding that dark humor was part of her persona.
McLaughlin had Enright read a document she wrote between 2015 and 2016, where she described an “insatiable curiosity to kill a person.”
“I wrote that a long time ago,” Enright said, adding that she wrote in that style to make herself feel stronger.
McLaughlin asked Enright about an abortion she had on June 15, 2018, when she was 13 weeks and 5 days pregnant. He inquired if Enright had wanted to take the discarded fetus home with her to keep as a wet specimen. Other wet specimens were on display in Enright’s room when it was searched by police in July 2018.
She responded that she thought about it.
Questions focused on the fetus at several points through the afternoon. McLaughlin pointed to evidence that Enright had brought a lunch box to Planned Parenthood in order to bring the fetus home and that she brought $100 with her to bribe employees to let her take home the fetus. He showed the jury a note written by Enright that called the day of the abortion exciting and mentioned the $100.
“I never could have actually gone through with that,” Enright said. She told the court that she tried to put forth an outrageous persona with things she wrote and that she never bribed anyone.
Asked whether the pregnancy was intentional, Enright said she wanted people to think that it was and that she was trying to imitate Marilyn Manson.
McLaughlin asked Enright point-blank if Chicklis was the surprise for her boyfriend. She said no.
The prosecutor also asked how many times Enright stabbed Chicklis.
“I don’t remember because it happened very quickly but I really don’t remember it being 12. I think it was less,” she said. “I pushed and swung and it was frantic and it happened really quickly.”
Chicklis was reported missing after June 23, 2018. His Honda Civic was discovered in the parking lot of a Hannaford Supermarket on Route 202 in Rindge, New Hampshire, on June 29, 2018.
Then, Chicklis’ body was found by a jogger on July 10, 2018, in a state of decomposition on the side of Route 119 in Rindge. His remains were wrapped in a blanket, a tarp, and a beige canvas sheet, medical examiner Jennie Duval previously testified, as well as placed into garbage bags that were duct-taped. A shirt with his remains had 12 slit marks.
McLaughlin asked Enright if she could have knocked on her neighbor’s door, called 911 or gone to the police station for help after what happened in the treehouse. She said she could have, but did not do any of those things. She went to get help from Lind.
The two put Chicklis’ body in the back of Chicklis’ Honda, went to Route 119 and carried him over an embankment to dump the body, she said.
Enright admitted to cleaning the treehouse using a mix of bleach and water but said she did not do it well. Chicklis’ DNA was found in blood spots that had seeped onto the floorboards.
Earlier in the trial, prosecutors have pointed to a document recovered from Enright’s MacBook that focuses on admiration for a person and describes being aroused by an event. It was written on June 28, 2018.
In part, it reads, “It was a form of a present. I did it just for him. That was my intention.” It also describes anxiety around the event and the event becoming a difficult chore.
When McLaughlin asked if Enright was writing about Chicklis, she said the document was about robbing a grave. She said she took bones from an abandoned crypt.
“It’s actually in a box in one of your pictures,” she said referring to the bones, and added, “I was doing anything to focus on not focusing on what had happened,” about the assault.
Enright said she robbed the grave at a local cemetery before June 23, 2018, but didn’t remember the exact date. She said the bones were a gift for Lind but she kept them at her house because she was trying to put them back together.
To end the day Friday, the defense called Jhilam Biswas, a forensic psychiatrist who interviewed Enright nine times for a total of 24 hours.
She explained that at age 21, how old Enright was when Chicklis was killed, the prefrontal cortex part of the brain, which controls executive functioning like planning and making decisions, is not fully developed.
Being pregnant and having an abortion would affect the brain but would not accelerate maturity, Biswas testified.
The trial has included descriptions of Enright’s work as a dominatrix; photos of a bed with restraints, images of bones, vials of blood and decaying animals around Enright’s property; and notes and typed documents. Jurors have also seen video recordings of interviews Enright had with police on July 13, 2018, and on July 23, 2018.
The prosecution has pointed out four handles that were attached to the walls of the treehouse about 6 inches or so above the floorboards.
Earlier this week, a former neighbor of Enright, who lived on the property that contained the treehouse, said she went out to clean the treehouse in fall 2017 and April 2018 and there were no handles inside.
On the stand, Enright said the handles had been there since buying them with a former boyfriend in 2015 and that the neighbor didn’t notice them.
Last week, jurors got a glimpse of the treehouse through pictures taken in 2018 by Massachusetts State Police Trooper Ali Rei. They took a visit to that site and others on Monday.
Also on Monday, a friend of Enright’s testified that Enright had said jail wouldn’t be bad because she could work out and read. She apparently made those comments before and after the death of Chicklis.
The jury has one fewer person than when the trial commenced. Last week, Judge Daniel Wrenn announced that one juror had tested positive for COVID-19. After talking with each juror at sidebar about whether they felt comfortable proceeding, the trial resumed.