A Vermont man accused of shooting two people in a truck outside his home on Monday and killing one of them, has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder.
Prosecutors said a dispute over driveway access sparked a violent encounter that left one man dead in the middle of the road and another hospitalized in very critical condition.
"It's a shocking and sad event," said Jim Hughes, the state's attorney for Franklin County.
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Investigators said Ethan Gratton, 26, was mad that two loggers had wanted to back a flatbed hauler into his family's driveway in the town of Georgia.
Prosecutors said a physical fight between the men ensued, then the suspect went to get a handgun and turned it on the two in the truck.
Gratton allegedly shot 57-year-old Dave Hill of Fairfax in the back and the head, killing him. He's also accused of shooting 27-year-old Mark Brito of Fairfax in the face.
A bullet became lodged in Brito's brain, Hughes told reporters after the arraignment of Gratton.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Brito was hospitalized in intensive care with life-threatening injuries at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.
"I just lost a cousin and a very, very good friend for no reason," Bryce McNall, Hill's cousin, told necn. "For stupidness."
Gratton pled not guilty to one charge of second-degree murder, and another charge of attempted second-degree murder.
Judge Gregory Rainville ordered Gratton jailed without bail until at least his next court hearing.
An attorney representing Gratton at his arraignment claimed this was self-defense, saying the suspect was outnumbered and punched in the face.
"One of the two individuals punched him in the eye, broke his nose with the second punch and knocked out his front tooth with the third," attorney Steve Dunham told the court.
But the state's attorney countered that claim, saying no way was this self-defense. Hughes argued the accused killer had already fully gotten away from that fight before he grabbed the handgun.
The defense said Gratton had the gun in the pocket of his hoodie the whole time.
Mark Brito's father, Steve Brito, declined to say much Tuesday, telling reporters after the hearing he would have more to say about the case at a later date.
Brito called his son a "great kid" before leaving court.
Gratton did not previously have a criminal record, Hughes said.
If convicted of the charges filed Tuesday, Gratton could face a potential maximum sentence of life in prison.