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Donovan Sentenced to Life

By Sarah Y. Keightley
News Editor

Joseph P. Donovan, 19, was found guilty of the felony murder of Yngve K. Raustein '94 and sentenced to life without parole yesterday in Middlesex Superior Court. He was also convicted on two counts of armed robbery.

On the night of Sept. 18, 1992, Donovan allegedly punched Raustein before Shon McHugh, 16, fatally stabbed him during a robbery attempt along Memorial Drive.

On Oct. 7, 1993, District Judge John Brandt found McHugh guilty of felony murder and armed robbery. McHugh faces 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence for a juvenile convicted of first-degree murder.

Donovan's trial began on Tuesday, according to Jill Reilly, spokesperson for the Middlesex District Attorney's office. The jury deliberated for seven hours, over a two-day period. The jury deliberation was "fairly short for [a] first degree" murder case, Reilly said.

After the jury's verdict was read, Judge Robert A. Barton sentenced Donovan to life in state prison with no parole, the maximum sentence for an adult convicted of first degree murder. He was also sentenced to serve 20 to 25 years concurrently for the armed robberies.

Donovan was charged with felony murder because Raustein was killed while a felony was being committed, Reilly said. The prosecution's strategy was to show "even though [Donovan] didn't stab Yngve Raustein, he's still responsible for the murder."

Middlesex Assistant District Attorney John W. McEvoy Jr. "put together a very strong case," showing that Donovan was part of the incident "from beginning to end," Reilly said.

Last September, Raustein and Arne Fredheim G, both students from Norway, were walking east on Memorial Drive near Hayden Library at 9:45 p.m. when they were confronted by Donovan, then 17, Alfredo Velez, then 18, and McHugh, then 15.

Donovan, apparently without provocation, punched Raustein, knocking him to the ground. Donovan then allegedly robbed Raustein while Velez robbed Fredheim. When Raustein started to get up, McHugh stabbed him.

At this week's court proceedings, Fredheim testified that Donovan and Raustein exchanged words, and then Donovan punched Raustein.

Velez also testified. He said that the three of them were part of this armed robbery, Reilly said. He said that after Raustein fell to the ground, McHugh stabbed him with a knife then wiped his knife on Raustein's back, according to the district attorney's press release.

Velez testified for the prosecution during Donovan's trial and McHugh's trial in exchange for pleading to the lesser charge of manslaughter instead of murder.

During Donovan's testimony, He admitted to punching Raustein, Reilly said. After punching Raustein, Donovan grasped his hand and turned around because he had broken his hand.

Donovan testified that when he turned away, he did not witness or take part in the armed robbery and murder, according to the press release. He said he didn't see what Shon McHugh did, Reilly said.

Other witnesses for the prosecution included Raustein's mother, the police officers who made the arrests, and the medical examiner who pronounced Raustein dead, Reilly said.

Professor William B. Watson, housemaster at Baker House where Raustein lived, attended part of the trial. Raustein's mother took the stand to identify the stolen wallet as belonging to Raustein, he said. The purpose of her testimony was to establish the relationship between Raustein and his mother and to show the jury that there is a grieving family, Watson said.

The strategy of the defense's case was to show "Donovan was without knowledge of the robbery and of the murder being committed," according to Donovan's attorney, James O'Donovan. O'Donovan called Donovan and his mother to the stand.

Donovan admitted to punching Raustein, but he "did not see the knife, did not see the stabbing," O'Donovan said. Donovan testified that he had no idea why Raustein's wallet was missing. He also testified that he observed Velez asking Fredheim for his wallet, O'Donovan said.

O'Donovan said he will appeal the case. Yesterday's verdict did not surprise him, he said. "The case was tried fairly," he added.

"I think from the evidence that I've heard, ... Donovan got the verdict that he deserved," Watson said.

"The whole thing is very depressing really," Watson said. He hopes young people can learn something from this case. Three lives were wasted, and one life was destroyed, he said.

McHugh's lawyer has appealed McHugh's decision, and McHugh faces a jury trial later this year. In the juvenile system the defendant is first tried without a jury and then gets an automatic re-trial, Reilly said.

The first trial was before a judge, and the re-trial will be before a 12-person jury on Nov. 5.

Velez is awaiting trial.