ST. ALBANS CITY — The late David Hill was at the center of Ethan Gratton trial’s third day Friday.
Gratton fatally shot Hill on Jan. 2, 2017. The State has charged Gratton with second-degree murder, as well as attempted second-degree murder connected to Gratton’s shooting of Mark Brito, who survived and was in the courtroom again Friday, visibly emotional amid the morbid discussion.
Elizabeth Bundock, the state’s deputy chief medical examiner, autopsied Hill. She testified Friday he was shot five times, in what order she couldn’t say.
Bundock said any of the shots, including multiple wounds in his skull and torso, could have been fatal.
She said the trajectories of at least two of Hill’s wounds were steep, meaning the bullets entered Hill’s body while he was at a nearly horizontal angle.
Each of the case’s attorneys, State’s Attorney Jim Hughes and Gratton’s defense attorney, Kelly Green, offered explanations for bullets entering Hill’s body at that angle.
Green suggested Hill could have been falling forward, while Hughes suggested Hill could already have fallen and been lying on the ground. Bundock said both were possibilities.
Green asked Bundock how quickly a person might die from those steep upward shots, which Bundock testified punctured a multitude of Hill’s organs, including his kidney, heart and adrenal gland.
Bundock said a person would probably die from those wounds in less than a minute, and lose consciousness faster than that.
Green told the jury in her opening remarks Wednesday that Hill’s autopsy photos would show what a “big dude” he was. Friday she asked Bundock Hill’s height and weight.
Bundock said he was six feet tall and 303 lbs.
Courtney Ganter of the Vermont Forensic Lab testified that a red-brown substance tested from Hill’s pants proved to be Gratton’s blood.
She also testified that the lab tested red-brown substances on a .45-caliber Ruger pistol the Vermont State Police Crime Scene Search Team retrieved from beneath the passenger seat of Pam and Jeff Gratton’s vehicle.
Ganter said portions of those substances were Gratton’s blood, but a minor portion belonged to someone else. She said the lab was unable to test that portion.
Harry Jeppe, the forensic lab’s firearms examiner, testified about his examination of the .40-caliber Smith & Wesson M&P Shield with which Gratton shot Hill and Brito.
Jeppe testified that he examined not just the pistol, but Hill’s sweatshirt as well, which he searched for firing residue. Jeppe said he found none.
Jeppe testified he generally expects such residue to travel no more than four feet.
Green asked him if the lack of residue on Hill’s sweatshirt could be explained if he were wearing a black jacket, as one witness testified he was at a point immediately prior to the shooting. Jeppe said that could explain it.
He said he did not test Brito’s clothing.
The day’s trial began with Hughes recalling Jason Letourneau, who directed the state police crime scene search team in responding to the shooting.
Letourneau testified most of Thursday afternoon, but Hughes said he himself had “neglected” one line of questioning — whether the crime scene search team found any variety of weapons in the cab of Hill’s tractor trailer truck, in the skidder Brito was moving on to the truck’s lowboy trailer, on Hill himself or in the vicinity of the scene, aside from those previously discussed.
Letourneau said no.
The trial’s third day concluded just after noon.
Judge Greg Rainville said the trial’s fourth day, Monday, could also end early, due to witness availability. He said most are scheduled to appear from the trial’s fifth day, Tuesday.
The Messenger will continue coverage of the trial.
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