Gurung Found Guilty of First-Degree Murder in 2017 Cleaver Attack | Crime | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Gurung Found Guilty of First-Degree Murder in 2017 Cleaver Attack

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Published November 3, 2022 at 4:48 p.m.


Aita Gurung at an earlier court hearing - SASHA GOLDSTEIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sasha Goldstein ©️ Seven Days
  • Aita Gurung at an earlier court hearing
Following four days of deliberations, a jury on Thursday found Aita Gurung guilty of first-degree murder for the brutal killing of his wife in 2017,  rejecting an insanity defense that had divided even state prosecutors.

Gurung was also found guilty of attempted murder for injuring his mother-in-law during the same attack, according to VTDigger.org and WCAX.

The trial turned on whether Gurung, a Burlington resident and Bhutanese refugee with severe mental illness, was legally insane when he killed Yogeswari Khadka with a meat cleaver outside their Old North End home and injured his mother-in-law. He has spent much of the time since the murder receiving inpatient mental health care.
Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George dropped the case against Gurung in 2019 after two psychiatrists concluded that he was insane at the time of the murder. Within days, however, then-attorney general T.J. Donovan refiled charges at the request of Gov. Phil Scott. Donovan’s successor, Susanne Young, who was appointed by Scott, continued to pursue the case, represented at trial by assistant attorneys general Sophie Stratton and Rosemary Kennedy.



“The primary responsibility of any government is public safety," Scott said in a statement following the verdict. "And that means we cannot allow violent criminals to potentially walk free. This case — and the victims — deserved their day in court. Justice was served.”

George, who is running unopposed in the November 8 general election after winning the Democratic party primary, did not immediately issue a statement on Thursday.
Vermont law states that a person is not responsible for criminal behavior “if at the time of such conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he or she lacks adequate capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct or to conform his or her conduct to the requirements of law.”

The law puts the burden of proof on the defendant to establish insanity by a preponderance of the evidence.

Superior Court Judge John Pacht ordered Gurung to remain hospitalized pending a later hearing, according to the Attorney General’s Office.