Few Answers, for Now, for Families, Towns
White River Junction — Emily Y. Perkins and Emma Jozefiak were together in a Bethel trailer on the day more than two years ago when Jozefiak was shot multiple times and left to die, according to police.
On Thursday morning, more than two years later, the young women found themselves in a room together once again, in Windsor Superior Court — Jozefiak in the gallery, Perkins at the defendant’s table — as prosecutors began to lay out their understanding of the events that ended with Jozefiak with a bullet lodged in her skull and the man with whom she had been living, Scott Hill, dead.
Members of all three families — about 20 people in all — were in court Thursday as well, crowding into court benches for Perkins’ 15-minute arraignment hearing in a case that appeared dormant for years before authorities announced Perkins’ arrest on Wednesday night.
Last to arrive were Peggy and David Ainsworth, Emily Perkins’ mother and stepfather, who walked the length of the courtroom and took seats in front of some of the members of the Hill group, to the left of Jozefiak.
“It’s been hard,” Peggy Ainsworth said after the hearing. “That’s it.”
Perkins, 27, pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of Jozefiak, who turned 19 the day before she was shot. In court documents and during the arraignment, authorities said that the motive was robbery and drugs.
Though none of the charges against Perkins pertain to Hill’s death, several of his family members, including his sons and sisters, arrived in the courtroom first on Thursday, and sat quietly in the back rows of two seating sections. They declined to comment afterward, except to acknowledge that it was a difficult day.
“Not much for closure for us,” said his sister, Regina Ashley, before the group left the courthouse.
Jozefiak was shepherded into the courtroom by a group that included at least one victim’s advocate.
When proceedings were over, the courtroom emptied into the lobby, where Jozefiak and Scott Hill’s son, Josh Hill, embraced. When they parted, Jozefiak was seen weeping before being led into a conference room. When she emerged a short time later, she had regained her composure and with her supporters walked past reporters without speaking as they exited the courthouse.
While friends and family in the courtroom had little to say on Thursday, the unsolved shooting has been a topic of speculation since the crime scene was discovered on Nov. 11, 2011.
In addition to the attempted murder charge, Perkins was also arraigned Thursday on charges that she burglarized her former employer, Tracy’s Midway Station in Sharon, in 2011, using an old key and her knowledge of how to disarm the store’s alarm system to take cigarettes and cash from the register.
Jim Fisk, who owns the gas station and convenience store, was one of several people who helped Perkins and her husband financially when Michael Perkins quit his job three years ago because of cancer-related seizures.
Fisk said that when the burglary happened, he was not sure that it was Perkins. He only learned on Wednesday that the attempted murder and burglary charges were filed against her. She also faces charges of selling drugs allegedly taken from the Bethel trailer.
“I just was flabbergasted,” Fisk said, noting that he’s always considered Perkins to be a “sweet and cordial girl” since she attended high school with his own daughters years ago.
Even if he had known that Perkins was being charged with the robbery, he suspects he would have tried to help Emily and Michael “probably either way.”
“I’m not 100 percent positive that she did this,” he said of the shooting. “There were a lot of other names involved that I knew of, or heard of. I don’t know if she did it, and if she did do it she was probably put up to it. I just think it’s tragic. That’s all, it’s very tragic. I really feel bad but I don’t know what I can do.”
In Bethel Thursday afternoon, neighbors who live near the site of the shootings on Dartt Hill Road said they were glad to see an advancement in the case, the first public development in two years.
“It’s about time,” said one woman, who like another neighbor declined to provide her name because she did not “want to get involved.”
She said she hoped authorities would determine who had killed Hill.
According to court filings, Perkins gave an ever-changing account of her relationship with Hill and Jozefiak before telling police that she shot Jozefiak by accident after witnessing her shoot Hill. (No charges have been filed in connection with Hill’s death.)
On Thursday, Perkins appeared at the defendant’s table in shackles and said little during the arraignment, except to answer her attorney’s questions about the ages of her young daughters, who are almost 4 and 6, at which point Perkins appeared near tears. Her husband, Michael Perkins, died last month from brain cancer. Authorities have said they held off on charging Emily Perkins to allow her to spend time with her husband before he died.
Peggy Ainsworth said Perkins’ daughters are staying with the Ainsworths in Royalton, where Peggy Ainsworth serves on the Selectboard and David Ainsworth is a former state representative.
At the Corner Stop Mini Mart gas station in South Royalton, customers were also reluctant to comment on the case. Some expressed general feelings of shock and sympathy for the families involved, and acknowledged that they had wondered what was happening in the case since police last made a public statement shortly after the shootings.
Raymond Young, 65, of Tunbridge, said the case showed that there are “way too many drugs” in the area and that’s fueling crime.
He understood the state’s decision to hold off on charging Perkins while her husband was dying of cancer, he said.
“I can be sympathetic, as long as she wasn’t going to run,” he said.
For his part, Fisk said the week’s events were shocking and unexpected.
“I’ve been here running my store for 27 years, so I’ve seen a lot of things,” he said, “but this is a heart-breaker.”
Maggie Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3220.