State v. Nicole Kasniskas
On Aug. 6, 2003, Dominico was murdered. Her daughter's boyfriend, William Sullivan Jr., then 18, of Willimantic, Conn., beat and stabbed Dominico to death after plotting the murder with her daughter, Nicole Kasinskas, then 16. The two teens chose to kill Dominico because they wanted to live together and she opposed it.
Sullivan was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to murder after a trial earlier this summer and sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole. Kasinskas pleaded guilty to a lesser murder charge, and testified against Sullivan. On Thursday, she was sentenced, as expected, to serve at least 35 years in prison. The only words Kasinskas uttered during the hearing came when Judge William Groff asked if she understood the sentence he'd imposed.
"Yes, I do," she said.
Kasinskas didn't want to try to speak for herself, her lawyer, Adam Bernstein of Nashua, said later.
"I don't think there was anything she could say to help the situation," Bernstein said. "She feels a tremendous amount of regret and remorse. . . . I think she was trying not to inflame the situation any more."
Kasinskas sat quietly with her hands in her lap, turned slightly toward the courtroom podium as her half-sister, McGowan and then her father addressed her, pouring out their anguish and bewilderment. She wept silently as McGowan showed her photographs of memorials commemorating her mother at the Lincoln Park baseball field, where Dominico coached, and at Birch Hill Elementary School, where she worked as a paraprofessional. McGowan visits there often, he said.
"A day does not go by that I don't stop and reflect on the memory of your mother," he said.
"She loved you, Nicole. She was very proud of you, and she knew that moving to Connecticut was not in your best interest," McGowan told her.
"It's ironic to think that the last words that you heard your mother say were as you were speaking to Billy on his cell phone," shortly before the murder, McGowan said. Kasinskas was waiting in Sullivan's car, parked outside the nearby 7-Eleven, when she called. In the background, she told police later, she heard her mother yelling for her, "Come home, Nicole."
"If only you had, Nicole," McGowan said. "If only you had simply come home."
Amybeth Kasinskas, 26, of Dracut, Mass., recalled hearing from her aunt that her stepmother had been murdered, and her sister was suspected. The news was incomprehensible, she said.
"I didn't understand," she said. "It was almost as though I didn't speak English."
"Since that day, it hits me every day, all over again. She's gone, and she's never coming back," she said.
"You're my sister and I love you to pieces," Amybeth Kasinskas told Nicole. "Every teenager has the right to make bad choices, but this was an astronomically bad choice."
Dominico's murder left Amybeth Kasinskas struggling with guilt for having distanced herself from her stepmother, sister and brother in the years beforehand, she said. Dominico had loved her as a daughter, she said, and she still considers Dominico a role model.
Amybeth Kasinskas can't help but think, she said, "If I had been a better big sister, if I had been a better adviser to you, that you would have made a better decision."
Now, there's nothing she can do.
"I can't fix this," she said. "I can't bring Jeanne back."
"She's gone because you allowed that to happen," she told her sister. "I expected to feel better when it (the court case) was all over, but I don't. . . . She's still gone. She's gone forever.
"I may quite literally not even be alive by the time you get out of jail. There is nothing I can do to help you," she said. "I love you, but I may never forgive you. I've lost my opportunity to have hope for you."
Groff allowed Kasinskas' father to speak, although lawyers in the case hadn't known beforehand that he wanted to do so. Anthony Kasinskas sat behind his daughter during the hearing, the only one of her relatives to do so, but he couldn't stand behind what she'd done, he told her.
"Everything that everybody has said in this courtroom, think about it," he told his daughter.
"What you and Billy did haunts a lot of people. I hope it haunts both of you. You changed a lot of people's lives.
"Think about it," he said. "You have plenty of time."
Illustration: Staff photo by Don Himsel
Christopher McGowan, fiance of the late Jeanne Dominico, displays a photograph of Jeanne and her daughter, Nicole, to Nicole herself during her sentencing in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua on Thursday.