Vermont refiles murder charge after governor requests review
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A first-degree murder charge against a man accused of killing his wife with a cleaver in 2017 has been refiled by Vermont's attorney general.
A prosecutor dropped charges against Aita Gurung after he was deemed by experts to be legally insane. But Attorney General T.J. Donovan refiled the charges, including a first-degree attempted murder charge related to Gurung's mother-in-law, after the governor asked him to review the prosecutor's decision.
Gurung pleaded not guilty Friday. He was ordered held without bail in the Department of Corrections' custody. He was expected to undergo a mental health exam.
Donovan said he wanted to restore public trust and said the issue of insanity should be decided by a jury.
"The public has a right to know what happened and we need an accurate record as to what happened," he said. "A dismissal does not accomplish that. In fact, with a dismissal these charges are now eligible to be sealed."
He said the victim's family said they wanted the laws of state's government "to bring justice to their family. That's what we intend to do. We intend to prosecute this case through the court process as it is designed to work," he said.
Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George in June dropped the charges against him, and two other violent crime suspects, saying evidence showed the defendants were legally insane.
Gurung's attorney Sandra Lee said Donovan's action seemed politically motivated.
"My greatest concern is that this action being re-brought is basically an end run against all the orders that were already issued by this court regarding this exact same case," Lee told reporters.
She fears Gurung will end up in jail when she said he needs continued mental health treatment. Last week, he was moved from the state's psychiatric hospital to another secure facility in Middlesex.
She said he has a severe mental illness and is suicidal.
"As a society and as the state of Vermont we are a humane state and we believe that people should be treated when it's clear that they are insane, even when horrific crimes occur," she said.
A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.