A man charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder will remain jailed while a Vermont judge awaits more evidence to consider defense lawyers' requests that their client be released on bail and conditions.
Ethan Gratton, 26, allegedly shot two men on Jan. 2 outside his family's home in the Franklin County town of Georgia following a dispute over driveway access.
David Hill, 57, of Fairfax, died in the road from multiple gunshot wounds, according to investigators. Mark Brito, 27, also of Fairfax, remains hospitalized following a life-threatening gunshot wound to the face.
"He would give you the shirt off his back," said Steve Brito of Barnstable, Massachusetts, talking about his son, Mark. "He's the kindest kid you could meet and the hardest-working kid you could come across."
Brito said his son, who grew up on Cape Cod but had been working in Vermont for the town of Westford's highway department, initially had a very grim medical prognosis, with bullet fragments lodged in his brain.
However, Brito told necn his son has been making encouraging progress. While the patient can't speak, and the status of his eyesight is uncertain, he has responded to some doctors' commands, Steve Brito explained.
"Every day is a great day, for us to come here and see Mark doing what he’s doing," the father said of his son's medical progress.
Brito also praised staff at the University of Vermont Medical Center for their care of his son and compassion to his family.
Gratton has been in jail after pleading not guilty earlier this month to shooting Brito. He also denied a murder charge for allegedly shooting and killing Brito's friend and mentor, David Hill.
Hill's obituary said he enjoyed spending time with his many family and friends, as well as his beloved dog, Sam, watching western movies, and listening to bluegrass music.
Hill had been teaching Brito proper usage of tractor trailers and other heavy equipment, Steve Brito said.
Police said the gunfire followed a dispute over driveway access, with Gratton angry that Hill and Brito wanted to use his family's property to turn around a big rig loaded with logging equipment.
Gratton claimed self-defense, saying those loggers punched him a few times during the roadside argument, breaking his nose and knocking out a tooth.
Wednesday, Gratton's attorneys asked Judge Gregory Rainville to okay their client's release from jail on conditions pending trial.
Judge Rainville noted this is a very unusual case, because Gratton had no prior criminal history, and the fight appeared to have been over something rather trivial.
However, Rainville cautioned all sides against jumping to conclusions because a lot more evidence will be introduced, and a lack of witnesses in the case complicates the investigation.
Prosecutors played a 911 recording of Pam Gratton calling for help for the men suffering in the road outside her home.
Franklin County State's Attorney Jim Hughes pointed out the 911 recording also contained audio of Ethan Gratton in the background saying he shot the loggers because they punched him.
Hughes argued Gratton should stay in jail in order to protect public safety and to protect Gratton from himself, because Hughes said the suspect made suicidal statements after the shooting.
Ethan Gratton's mother, Pam, testified that her son is an educated, hard-working young man. She said she saw her son the day of the tragedy with a bloodied face, which he told her was from punches thrown by one or both of the men in the truck.
Pam Gratton told the court she took a handgun away from her son after the shooting and put it out of his reach until the police arrived.
"I was afraid the trooper would come and shoot Ethan," Pam Gratton testified, choking back tears as she described her worry about what she imagined could happen if an officer saw a bloodied man holding a gun.
Pam Gratton told Judge Rainville she would care for her son and ensure a gun-free home if the court okayed his release from jail on conditions while awaiting trial.
Rainville declined to issue a ruling on the defense attorneys' bail request Wednesday.
The judge said there are still many unknowns in the case, and said before he rules on allowing Gratton's release from jail on conditions, he would first want to review several pieces of pending evidence, including a mental health evaluation of the suspect.