LEWISTON — A judge has ordered a local teen charged with manslaughter in the June 2018 slaying of Donald Giusti must remain at a South Portland juvenile facility until an alternative residence can be found.

Emmanuel Nkurunziza appears Thursday in 8th District Court in Lewiston for a hearing to determine the status of his detention. The judge decided Nkurunziza will continue to be held at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

Emmanuel Nkurunziza, who turned 18 on May 10, appeared Thursday in 8th District Court with his lawyer, parents and an interpreter.

Judge Rick Lawrence scheduled another detention hearing for July, but said the teen, who lives on Howe Street, could possibly be released in the meantime to a less-restrictive alternative placement approved by the Juvenile Community Corrections Office, if one is found..

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said Thursday she was seeking to have Nkurunziza kept at the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, where he has been held since his arrest in April.

“The state does not believe that there has been a change in circumstances at this particular time to warrant release into the community,” she said.

She said she would agree to Nkurunziza’s release from Long Creek if his juvenile corrections caseworker is able to find a residential placement that is appropriate.


Nkurunziza’s lawyer, Allan Lobozzo, called the judge’s attention to a dozen “letters of support” for his client, including a Lewiston High School principal, who called the teen a “hard worker.”

The leader of a student support services program described Nkurunziza as “always polite.” A doctor wrote the teenager was “polite, helpful and caring.” The writers of the other letters echoed those sentiments, Lobozzo said.

He said the court has learned more about Nkurunziza since his arrest and the additional information “suggests that if he was released, under the supervision of this court, he would comply with whatever conditions this court imposed.”

The judge said he was “getting a better sense of the circumstances and characteristics” of Nkurunziza, but did not believe a less-restrictive alternative to Long Creek was available that would ensure the teen would be adequately supervised, show up for future court proceedings and not have any inappropriate contact with others, such as co-defendants in the case.

Lawrence said he also was concerned that “as a result in part of the notoriety of this particular case, there is no harm that is imminent to him.”

Giusti, 38, died June 15 at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, three days after he was beaten on Knox Street.


Police said Nkurunziza had admitted to throwing a rock into a crowd during a nighttime melee on Knox Street on June 12 that is believed to have struck Giusti in the head. Nkurunziza reportedly told police he had not seen where his rock landed. A witness, however, told police he had seen the rock when it was thrown and when it landed.

A medical examiner determined the cause of Giusti’s death to be blunt-force trauma that included two “significant areas” of trauma to Giusti’s head and brain. A medical examiner also noticed a “patterned injury” on Giusti’s left shoulder, a broken clavicle and a fracture to one of his left rear ribs, according to the autopsy report.

In addition to Nkurunziza, a 13-year-old boy and a 23-year-old man, both from Lewiston, were arrested in connection with Giusti’s death. The two have been charged with misdemeanor assault.

Nkurunziza had turned 17 shortly before the date of the incident.

Prosecutors are seeking to have him tried as an adult. If convicted as an adult of the Class A crime of manslaughter, he would face up to 30 years in prison.

Brian Thompson, Giusti’s father, said after Thursday’s hearing he agreed with the judge’s decision to continue to hold Nkurunziza and not release him back into the community.

Thompson said his family is taking things one day at a time, calling his son’s death “a senseless thing.”

“We’re just looking for closure,” he said. “And justice.”

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