AYER -- The 26-year-old Ayer woman charged in connection with the fatal stabbing of her cousin in Ayer on Friday was held without bail Monday during her arraignment at Ayer District Court as more details emerged.
Laqwanda Villaronga told police that her cousin, 24-year-old Jonathan Merritt, began "poking" and "taunting" her during an argument last Friday at her apartment home, according to Assistant District Attorney Suzanne Kontz.
She then picked up an 8-to-10-inch carving knife and stabbed Merritt, piercing his heart.
According to Kontz, Merritt, also of Ayer, was originally at Villaronga's home to watch her children overnight. Her children were in school at the time and, eventually, Villaronga arrived home. The cousins began doing drugs and drinking alcohol when they got into an argument.
Judge Margaret Guzman entered a not-guilty plea on Villaronga's behalf. The suspect cried out in court Monday when details of the alleged stabbing were shared. A dangerousness hearing in Villaronga's case has been scheduled for Friday.
The names of Villaronga and Merritt were released Monday by the Middlesex District Attorney's Office before Villaronga's arraignment.
On Friday, emergency crews in Ayer were called to an apartment complex on Groton School Road in Ayer about 1:18 p.m., by a 911 call reporting a stabbing, according to a press release. Crews arrived to find Merritt suffering from a stab wound to the torso.
District Attorney Marian Ryan during a press conference Friday said the man was taken to the Nashoba Valley Medical Center, where he later died from that injury. She said the suspect and victim are related by blood.
Preliminary investigation suggests that there was an altercation between the victim and suspect.
"During that altercation, the allegation is that the female stabbed that male with a large kitchen knife," Ryan said.
Villaronga is charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury. More serious charges could be filed once an autopsy is complete.
Rob Fleming of Ayer described Merritt as a "joker" with a "good sense of humor."
"He's very outgoing and polite," he said.
Fleming said he and both his sons were friends with Merritt, who stayed at his house during the day and often went to Villaronga's apartment to watch her children at night.
His son, who declined to be named, said he met Merritt in middle school and they attended Ayer Shirley Regional High School together.
He said Merritt has two kids.
Fleming said Merritt was looking for a job.
"I think he had a bright future ahead of him," he said.
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