One half of a mother-daughter duo who allegedly killed a man in their northern Vermont home, then waited months to dump the body, appeared in court Wednesday and entered a not guilty plea.
Erika Guttilla, 31, faced a murder charge for allegedly shooting and killing Troy Ford, 35. Ford had been living with Guttilla and her relatives in Highgate.
Defense attorney Steve Dunham entered a not guilty plea and said at future hearings, Guttilla will be represented by a lawyer who specializes in complicated cases with the potential for life prison sentences.
The latest news from around the state
Police said the crime happened last year, but didn't come to light until this week, when dog-walkers found Ford's body. He had never been reported missing.
Guttilla's accused of planning with her mother, Carmen, to shoot Ford in the head while he slept.
The women then allegedly left his body in a recycling bin that sat on the home's porch for several weeks to a few months, before moving it down the road where it was discovered.
"The court finds the evidence of guilt is great," Judge Martin Maley of the Vermont Superior Court said, in deciding the case rises to the level that merits jailing Erika Guttilla without bail.
Despite her denial in court, Vermont State Police detectives said in investigative paperwork filed with the court that Guttilla confessed to them.
Detectives wrote that under questioning, Erika Guttilla insisted the dead man "was one of the worst people she had ever met," and said that she felt relief when he was gone.
Guttilla claimed to police that Ford had controlled her family members with heroin and crack cocaine, and pushed the alleged killer to her breaking point through repeated physical and sexual assaults.
On Tuesday, one of Ford's relatives told necn that she believes those claims about Ford to be desperate lies spun to try to deflect responsibility, adding that if Ford was so violent, it would have been easy to report it to the authorities.
Police also interviewed a man who is currently incarcerated, whom Guttilla allegedly had asked for help moving Ford's body.
That man, Edward Bennett, said Erika Guttilla told him, "If I could do it again, I would. If I could bring him back to life again and kill him again, I would."
Erika Guttilla's mother, Carmen Guttilla, 60, pleaded not guilty Monday to a murder charge for her alleged role in the death. She, too, has been assigned an attorney who specializes in serious and complicated cases.
Tuesday, Erika Guttilla's boyfriend, Corey Cassani, 28, denied helping the women dump the body.
The court ordered Erika Guttilla to stay away from Cassani and her relatives involved in the case.
However, the judge acknowledged that order may have to be tweaked down the line, because of how hard it’ll be to enforce with the mother and daughter being held in the same jail.