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Wounded instructor speaks out ‘frustrated beyond words’ charge dropped against shooter



VtDigger
Friday, June 07, 2019

WESTFORD, Vt. — Darryl Montague said he did everything he could to try to convince Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George to not drop the charge against the woman accused of shooting him three times, including twice in the face.

“I argued every way, shape, and form that I could possibly think of,” Montague said. It didn’t work.

Instead, late last week George signed paperwork dismissing the attempted first-degree murder charge against Veronica Lewis.

In that filing, George cited the expert opinions from psychiatrists for both the defense and prosecution that found Lewis was insane at the time police say she shot Montague as he tried to give her a firearms lesson in Westford in June 2015.

“How do I feel about it? Frustrated beyond words,” Montague said of George’s decision to dismiss the charge against Lewis.

“I can say I’m pissed,” he added, “but I don’t know, maybe I’m beyond pissed.

“She at least had the courtesy to let me know before she released it to the press,” he added.

George issued a statement earlier this week announcing the dismissal of the charge against Lewis as well as murder counts against two other defendants.

In those instances, like Lewis’ case, their attorneys raised the insanity defense and experts for both the prosecution and defense concluded that all three were insane at the time of the offense, according to court filings.

In those two other cases, Louis Fortier was accused of a slaying in March 2017 on Church Street in Burlington and Aita Gurung was charged with killing his wife with a meat cleaver in Burlington in October 2017.

All three defendants, Lewis, Fortier, and Garung are expected to remain in the custody of the state Department of Mental Health until they are no longer at risk to harm themselves or others.

George has said she understands that Montague and the families of the victims of the other two shootings may not be happy, but she defended her decisions to dismiss the charges since she couldn’t rebut the insanity defenses and had to follow the law.

A defense expert, Dr. David Rosmarin, a forensic psychiatrist, concluded that Lewis was insane at the time of the offense, suffering from a schizoaffective disorder, according to court filings.

At the time of the shooting, George wrote in the dismissal notice, Rosmarin concluded that Lewis was “paranoid, highly delusional, terrified, and suffering from a formal thought disorder” and “were it not for the combination of her chronic and then-active psychosis she would not have shot the victim.”

Dr. Jonathan Weker, a forensic psychiatrist, hired by the prosecution, also concluded that Lewis was insane at the time of the offense, court records stated.

Lewis had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

It was during her second class, Montague recalled this week, that she shot him, twice in the face and once in the abdomen. Montague, 52, and now disabled and unable to work, spent a year at University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington healing from his injuries.

He still has problems with his balance and short-term memory. The two bullets that struck him in the face remain in his head, Montague said, with doctors telling him that removing them would cause more damage than leaving them in place.

“Literally,” he said, “as I sit here today, half my face feels like I went to the dentist and just got heavy Novocaine — that’s 24/7.”

Montague, who lived in Claremont at the time but had a family home in Westford, where he ran the firearms business, said Lewis came to him seeking to learn about guns. He remembers her telling him that she had recently moved to Vermont and she had friends who like to shoot, and they wanted to take her out shooting with them.

And she wanted to learn about firearms so she didn’t make a fool out of herself when they went shooting, Montague recalled.

“Does that sound insane?” he asked. “That sounds like somebody who is trying to be fairly reasonable and understands have to understand safety and know what they’re doing so they’re not a danger to others.”

He said that now he believes that story she told him was a “crock,” but it shows that she had the ability to come up with such a tale and stick with it.

“She was smart enough to know how to lie to people,” he said, later adding, “Are there people in the world that are insane? Yes, there are. But they don’t lie that well. This was a planned and practiced lie.”

Montague said he still has hope that somehow the decision to dismiss the charge can be reversed.

Gov. Phil Scott this week wrote a letter to Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan asking him to review George’s decision to dismiss all three cases.