Cooper Landing murder trial begins Monday

An Anchorage man accused of murder in the 2013 death of Genghis Muskox will go to trial starting Monday at the Kenai Courthouse.

District Attorney Scot Leaders and Defense Attorney Andrew Lambert told Kenai Superior Court Judge Charles Huguelet they are ready for the trial during a Wednesday hearing at the Kenai Courthouse.

Paul Vermillion, 32, was charged with one count of murder in the first degree, two counts of second-degree murder and a count of manslaughter after Muskox’s death on Dec. 5, 2013 at the home where Vermillion was living in Cooper Landing. Vermillion, an Iraq War veteran, has been living with a third-party custodian and appeared at Wednesday’s hearing over the phone, as did Lambert.

Vermillion’s defense has asserted that he was acting in self defense the night Muskox died. The two are alleged to have gotten into a fight after drinking, which ended with Muskox first being hit in the head with an ice axe and then shot and killed, according to Alaska State Troopers.

At Vermillion’s last trial call in January, Leaders told the court he had gotten a new report from the defense that interpreted evidence from the Cooper Landing crime scene differently than the state had. Lambert said the analysis supports the self-defense argument.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Leaders said the state recently found out the Seward Superior Court technically had jurisdiction for the trial, as the incident took place on the Seward side of the dividing line in Cooper Landing. He said he and Lambert had discussed the matter and that everyone had agreed to keep the trial in Kenai, to which Huguelet did not object.

Lambert also asked the court if he would be able to serve as Vermillion’s third-party custodian from time to time throughout the trial while the two are working at his office. A representative from the Alaska Office of Victims’ Rights, who also attended the hearing over the phone, said she would want to run that by the victim’s family first.

Murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree are both unclassified felonies, while manslaughter is a class A felony.

An unclassified felony is punishable by 20 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. A class A felony is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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