Chaos broke out inside a Massachusetts courtroom just moments before a Lawrence man's arraignment on charges that he killed his girlfriend as a relative of the murder victim jumped the partition and had to be subdued by court officers, as other relatives screamed obscenities at the suspect.
Thirty-two-year-old Tony Ventura was ordered to be held without bail after being arraigned on a murder charge Monday in Lawrence District Court for allegedly murdering his live-in girlfriend and the mother of his two children, 32-year-old Maria Morton.
Morton was "a loving, compassionate person, who lived for her kids, her kids were her world and now they're left without a mom and a dad," her friend Sandra Gutierrez said.
Morton's body was found Sunday inside the Prospect Street apartment the couple shared with their children and her sister after her sister allegedly heard them arguing.
Gutierrez said the couple had a rocky relationship the family had been concerned about for years. Court records show Morton had taken out two restraining orders against Ventura over the years.
"She cared for this individual enough to keep trying to help him, and unfortunately it didn't work out in the end," she said about Morton.
Prosecutors say Ventura took to social media and texted relatives, allegedly admitting what he had done, before turning himself over to police later on Sunday.
Ventura's attorney says his client suffers from depression and heroin addiction.
The fight ahead of Ventura's arraignment prompted the entire courtroom to be evacuated. One man was arrested after being bloodied in the melee, and the courtroom was cleared before the arraignment could resume about an hour later.
Morton's cause of death has not been disclosed.