LOWELL — It took jurors less than five hours of deliberations to find Eric Griffin guilty of all charges levied against him, including first-degree murder, for the brutal beating death of his girlfriend, 39-year-old Jennifer Kalicki, in 2019.
Throughout Griffin’s trial, which began in Middlesex Superior Court on June 29, several of Kalicki’s loved ones were present in the courtroom, including her mother, Kathy Gadd.
Each day of the trial, Gadd was seated in the front row of the courtroom gallery, a few dozen feet away from Griffin as he sat at the defendant’s table.
Right before jurors announced their decision late Wednesday afternoon, Gadd was again present in the front row, her eyes closed, and her lips moving in a silent prayer.
The joy and relief she felt after hearing the guilty verdicts was evident as Gadd embraced family and friends in the courtroom gallery, including her only other child, Matthew Kalicki, and her husband, George Gadd.
“I’m in shock, I really am,” Kathy Gadd said, with tears on her cheeks. “It’s what I wanted, but I never expected to get it. I thought somehow it wasn’t going to happen, but I’m so happy because (Griffin) does deserve to suffer.”
Jennifer Kalicki’s close friends, Mernaysa Rivera and Junie Joseph, were also present in the courtroom on Wednesday. They cried and hugged after hearing jurors return the guilty verdicts against Griffin.
Rivera and Joseph agreed that Kalicki’s death ultimately saved the life of another.
“Jen is gone, but he’s never going to hurt anyone ever again,” Rivera said of Griffin.
“She can rest in peace, and justice has been served,” Joseph added.
In addition to first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Griffin was convicted of intimidation of a witness, strangulation, and two counts of assault and battery of a household member.
Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Suzanne Wiseman revealed during the trial that Griffin and Kalicki had been dating on and off for a couple years prior to Kalicki’s death. The couple’s relationship was “punctuated by violence,” the prosecutor said during her opening arguments on June 29.
According to Wiseman, Griffin’s violent tendencies would boil to the surface when Kalicki tried to prevent him from abusing drugs.
“This case is about abuse that culminated in murder,” Wiseman told jurors.
On the morning of Sept. 15, 2019, Kalicki’s body was found by first responders inside the one-bedroom apartment she shared with Griffin on Archstone Avenue. It was revealed during the trial that Griffin told police he called first responders to the apartment after he found Kalicki in bed unresponsive and cold to the touch.
Wiseman contended Griffin had staged Kalicki’s body in the bed after beating her the day before, and then “left her there to die.” Multiple witnesses testified to seeing Kalicki lying in bed the previous day and night.
Dr. Anand Shah, a forensic pathologist with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, testified during the trial that an examination of Kalicki’s body determined she died from “blunt force head injuries.”
“Specifically at least four areas of blunt force trauma to the back of her head, causing a brain bleed, which caused an agonizingly slow death,” Wiseman told jurors during her roughly hourlong closing remarks on Tuesday.
At points throughout the trial, Wiseman, and Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Maren Shrader, displayed the grisly images of Kalicki’s body that displayed bruises and abrasions scattered across the 39-year-old’s body they said were caused by Griffin.
Griffin’s attorneys, William Dolan and Debra DeWitt, contended during the trial that Kalicki could have been the aggressor, while Griffin was simply defending himself against her. The defense referenced injuries seen on Griffin’s face, caused by Kalicki before her death.
Dolan and DeWitt also pointed to Kalicki’s arrest for allegedly assaulting Griffin in June 2019 — a charge that was later dismissed.
“They want you to believe that this is as simple as angels and demons,” Dolan told jurors about the prosecution during his opening remarks. “That Eric was a demon and Jen was an angel, even when she assaults him. … Eric is no demon, and Jen was no angel.”
Dolan and DeWitt stood next to Griffin as the jurors revealed their verdicts shortly after 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Griffin, who appeared dejected throughout the trial, continued to appear that way upon learning his fate.
Afterward, DeWitt said they are all disappointed by the trial’s outcome, adding, “I don’t think the jury got it right.”
“I think we have a couple appeal issues to look at, but it’s a tragedy for both families,” DeWitt said.
A common theme in the trial was Griffin’s substance abuse issue. DeWitt noted Griffin is now “thinking with a clear mind” after spending the last several years behind bars, awaiting his trial away from drugs.
“It is clear he was battling demons back then,” DeWitt said. “Addiction.”
Tewksbury Police Sgt. Shane Gallagher, who played a key role in the case’s investigation, and Tewksbury Police Chief Ryan Columbus, were also on hand in the courtroom on Wednesday. They stood back and watched as Kalicki’s family and friends celebrated the verdicts.
Columbus pointed out he was a detective lieutenant at the time of the murder.
“To see (Kalicki’s) lifeless body and to kind of know what she went through, it’s a bit emotional,” he said. “This is the job that we do, this is what we signed up for, but it always doesn’t work out this way. It’s incredible for me to be here to see this come full circle and to see the family and their elation.”
Gallagher and Columbus praised the work of law enforcement, and Wiseman, who Columbus described as “an incredible prosecutor.”
“It was great to see that all the facts were able to be put together to give the family justice,” Gallagher said. “To see the family and their reaction, all the dedication and work everyone put forward, it made it all worth it.”
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan released a statement on Wednesday night, announcing Griffin’s conviction.
“This verdict signifies our commitment to holding perpetrators of domestic violence accountable and exemplifies the good work of the team of prosecutors and police who spent months investigating this case in the Grand Jury and who dedicated themselves to gathering additional evidence that demonstrated the violence and intimidation being inflicted upon the victim,” Ryan said. “This type of controlling behavior is far too common in these cases and calls greater attention to the need for addressing the public safety and public health risk.”
At the time of her death, Kalicki worked in the Human Resources Department of Tewksbury State Hospital. A couple weeks after her death, a candlelight vigil, attended by approximately 200 people, took place outside the facility.
Kathy Gadd wears three bracelets that honor her daughter’s life, one for each year since Kalicki’s death. She also has a tattoo that states “Jenny” on her forearm. Above the name is a picture of a heart with angel wings.
Gadd smiles while pointing out the heart is decorated with Kalicki’s thumbprint.
“She was my baby, and she was my angel,” Gadd said. “Whether (attorney) Dolan says so or not. She was my angel. Otherwise she wouldn’t be gone.”
Griffin will be sentenced in Woburn District Court at 2 p.m. July 27.
Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis