State Dismisses Charges in Meat-Cleaver Murder, Two Other Cases That Used Insanity Defenses | Off Message

State Dismisses Charges in Meat-Cleaver Murder, Two Other Cases That Used Insanity Defenses


  • File: Sasha Goldstein
  • Sarah George
Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George has dismissed charges on the grounds of insanity against three people — two accused of murder and one of attempted murder.

All three defendants were involved in unrelated, high-profile cases including a deadly stabbing on Burlington's Church Street and a fatal meat cleaver attack in the city's Old North End.

George announced Tuesday that she had concluded the defendants were legally insane at the time of the crimes and would not be found guilty of the charges against them at trial. She filed to dismiss the charges last Friday.

"Despite retention of expert forensic psychiatrists" who evaluated the defendants, the state does not have evidence to rebut their insanity defenses, George said in a press release. "Therefore the state cannot meet its burden of proving defendants are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." 
The charges were dismissed against Aita Gurung, who was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge in 2017 for stabbing his wife to death with a meat cleaver; and Louis Fortier, who was charged with first-degree murder in 2017 for the fatal Church Street stabbing.
  • Ryan Mercer/Burlington Free Press
  • Aita Gurung in court
Charges were also dropped against Veronica Lewis, who was charged with attempted first-degree murder in 2015 for shooting her firearms instructor multiple times. He survived.

Lawyers for all three mounted the insanity defense in pretrial filings and hired expert witnesses that concluded the defendants had severe mental illnesses that prevented them from "conforming their behavior" to the law.

All three are in custody of the Vermont Department of Mental Health. It's unclear how long they will remain committed. 
  • Burlington police
  • Louis Fortier

George wrote that it is the state's expectation that the three will be treated until they are no longer a risk to themselves or others and the "interests of justice have been served."

She also said the dismissals do not undermine the "heroic" work by the Vermont State Police and Burlington Police Department to respond, arrest and investigate the three defendants.
The dismissals come a few weeks after George successfully prosecuted another accused killer who raised an insanity defense. On May 22, a jury found Steven Bourgoin guilty of five counts of murder for driving the wrong way on Interstate 89 and crashing into a car that carried five teens in October 2016. 

George could not be reached for further comment late Tuesday.

Read the dismissal letters for each case below:

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