Bail hearing gets heated

Prosecutor impounds car of accused's mother
Photo by Greg Skinner/Peninsula Clarion State Investigator Mark Pearson watches over the impounding of Patrice Vermillion's car at the Public Defenders office in Kenai on Wednesday. The state impounded the car after claiming a right to what they say is a note containing evidence against her son for the alleged murder of Genghis Muskox in Cooper Landing on Dec. 5.

The race to collect evidence for a pending murder trial turned a bail hearing sour Tuesday when the prosecutor hounded the defendant’s mother for evidence as she testified on her ability to watch over her son if he were released on bail — and then an officer followed her out to her car.

Prior to that, defense attorneys expressed concern that the body of Genghis Muskox was cremated before they had a chance to request it kept as key evidence and then pushed to have their defendant, Paul Andrew Vermillion, 30, examined by a doctor for evidence of brain trauma that they say occurred when Muskox attacked him the night of the alleged murder.

“There is evidence inside his head,” said lead public defender Josh Cooley.

The question of bail was not answered before being reset for a Monday hearing.

Vermillion stands accused by police of first-degree murder for the Dec. 5 shooting death of Muskox in the Vermillion family’s Cooper Landing home — they live full time in Anchorage. Police say the two fought before Paul Vermillion shot Muskox multiple times.

Kenai District Attorney Scot Leaders has yet to indict Vermillion for any charge regarding Muskox’s death. Vermillion has yet to be asked to enter a plea.

According to a police affidavit, Vermillion reported Muskox’s death by calling 911 at 1:57 a.m. While on the phone with police dispatchers, Vermillion admitted to killing Muskox but did not say how. When police arrived, they say Vermillion said “yes” when asked if he killed Muskox; again there was no disclosure of how he killed him.

“I executed the threat,” Vermillion, a disabled Iraq veteran, allegedly told police after telling them that he was attacked by Muskox.

Authorities said that Muskox was shot several times, including twice in the head.

With Muskox’s body released to the family and cremated by Dec. 7, two days after the alleged murder, Cooley asked the judge order that the state not “destroy” any more evidence or conduct any crime lab tests until a future agreement was reached.

The defense also sought a guarantee that Vermillion would be transported to a doctor, of their choosing, for an examination for evidence of a concussion and brain trauma they believe occurred the night of the killing.

Asking for an MRI scan for the third day in a row, Cooley said there is evidence that Vermillion was attacked and that he was the real victim. That evidence is fading, he said.

“Inside his head there is evidence that he was assaulted by the alleged victim,” Cooley said.

Kenai District Court Judge Sharon Illsley ordered that the Department of Corrections and the defense team work together to ensure the MRI was done in a timely manner.

During the failed bail hearing, Leaders pushed Patrice Vermillion, mother of the defendant, to admit that her son told to her, as she talked to him by phone that night before police arrived on scene, that he’d shot Muskox. Leaders presented his scenario several times during his chance to question Patrice Vermillion on her ability to serve as third-party custodian, if her son was released on bail.

“I don’t know what happened,” Patrice Vermillion said. “He said he blacked out.”

Cooley objected multiple times saying Leaders should not turn a bail hearing into one of evidence discovery.

“Move on,’ Judge Illsley told Leaders after his third attempt to persuade Patrice Vermillion to say her son confessed that he shot Muskox.

Leaders argued that his line of questions were relevant because a witness for either side can not be a third-party custodian to a defendant out on bail. That conversation with her son could make Patrice Vermillion a witness, he argued.

With the investigation into Muskox’s death ongoing and no indictment proffered, Leaders could not say if Patrice Vermillion would be a witness.

Judge Illsley decided to push the bail hearing following a heated conference on the matter with the defense and prosecution.

Admitting she was nervous and asking the court if she should even answer Leaders’ questions, Patrice Vermillion said she had made a note of the conversation with her son, which Leaders keyed in on, asking for the note’s location. Upon learning the note was in her car at the Office of the Public Defender, Leaders pressed Patrice Vermillion to provide it to him.

With the bail hearing over, defense attorney William “Bill” Taylor advised Patrice Vermillion that she did not have to answer Leaders’ questions, or provide the note.

“You have a right to an attorney,” Taylor warned before he and the defense team escorted Patrice Vermillion across the street to the public defender’s office. As she walked, at least one Alaska State Trooper followed close by asking questions until Taylor stepped between them to intervene and then lead Patrice Vermillion into the private office, where police could not follow.

After calling in license plates for the cars in the parking lot to determine which was Patrice Vermillion’s, police raced to block the Toyota truck in place and stood guard so that no one could enter it.

Cooley stepped out of the office and into a heated debate with state investigator Mark Pearson saying that the note Patrice Vermillion referred to was written at his behest and therefore police had no right to seize his work as evidence.

Explaining how “it will play out,” Pearson said the pickup was impounded and a search warrant sought. When Cooley asked if the investigators would inform the judge that they were asking for the work of an attorney as evidence, the troopers said they could not guarantee that his wish could be conveyed.

Police took the truck and with it Patrice Vermillion’s drivers license, money and coat. She’s from Anchorage and stuck here with nothing, she can’t even fly home, Cooley said.

Another state investigator, who refused to give his name, warned Cooley that the whole incident could have been avoided if they’d done what Leaders asked.

Reach Greg Skinner at greg.skinner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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