AYER - An Ayer woman who allegedly fatally stabbed her cousin during an argument in her Groton School Road apartment last week continues to be held without bail as the charge she faces was upgraded to murder on Friday.
Laqwanda Villaronga, 26, was scheduled to face a dangerousness hearing Friday on a charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury that was filed when she was arrested on Sept. 28.
But Assistant District Attorney Suzanne Kontz instead appeared in Ayer District Court and withdrew that assault charge, before filing paperwork to have Villaronga instead arraigned on a new charge of murder.
Since the charge was upgraded to murder, Villaronga was automatically held without bail. Villaronga is accused of stabbing her 24-year-old cousin, Jonathan Merritt, on Sept. 28 during an argument in her apartment at the Zodiac Village Apartments.
Several of her family members were in the Ayer courtroom for proceedings that lasted several minutes. Villaronga, who was in handcuffs, remained silent.
She has been held without bail since her arraignment on Monday on the assault charge.
Villaronga allegedly stabbed Merritt in the heart with a 8- to 10-inch knife during the argument, Kontz told the judge during Villaronga's arraignment.
Merritt was at Villaronga's home to watch her children overnight, Kontz said. The children were at school at the time and Villaronga later returned home.
The cousins were doing drugs and drinking when they began to argue, Kontz said. Villaronga told police that Merritt began "poking" and "taunting" her during the argument, she said.
Emergency responders received a call about the stabbing at 1:18 p.m., according to the Middlesex District Attorney's office.
They found Merritt suffering from a stab wound and took him to Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer where he died from his injuries.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said during a press conference that the suspect, later identified as Villaronga, and Merritt were blood-related.
Villaronga is scheduled to return to Ayer District Court for a probable-cause hearing on Nov. 5.