Evidence argued in Cooper Landing murder case

Multiple forms of evidence were put on the spot during an evidentiary hearing on Monday for an Anchorage man accused of murder.

Attorneys finished presenting their oral arguments at the hearing continued from August to address motions in the nearly two-year-old case. Paul Vermillion, 32, was charged with first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder a count of manslaughter after the death of Genghis Muskox on Dec. 5, 2013 in Cooper Landing. Vermillion, an Iraq War veteran, and Muskox were said to be drinking and got into a fight that ended with Muskox being shot and killed, according to Alaska State Troopers.

One issue discussed at Monday’s hearing was whether notes about the case taken by Vermillion’s parents could be produced as evidence by the state. Jennifer Shears of the Public Defenders Office in Kenai was interviewed about the notes, as was Investigator Austin MacDonald with the Alaska Bureau of Investigations. MacDonald attempted to get the notes from Vermillion’s mother, Patrice, shortly after the case’s first bail hearing in 2013.

MacDonald described a tense interaction with Patrice Vermillion and her son’s defense lawyers at the time on her way out of the courthouse that ended with her vehicle being seized, as the notes were inside it.

“I followed them and attempted to approach Mrs. Vermillion,” MacDonald said. “Mr. (William) Taylor (a defense attorney) attempted to body check me and told me to get out of the way.”

During the hearing, Huguelet said it is not likely the notes will be found to fall within the protection of attorney-client privilege or attorney work product.

Defense Attorney Andrew Lambert, of Anchorage, and District Attorney Scot Leaders also went over photographic evidence that documented the scene of the alleged murder at the house in Cooper Landing.

MacDonald, who responded to the scene after interviewing Vermillion the night of Muskox’s death, was questioned about the photos for the majority of the hearing. Much of Lambert’s questioning related to whether the evidence in those photos was enough to show Vermillion hadn’t been acting in self defense.

“There was blood that was on his shirt and also on his pants,” MacDonald recalled of his initial interview with Vermillion. “There was body tissue, it appeared to be grey matter, on his body as well.”

MacDonald said that, based on his interpretation of the scene, Muskox had first been hit in the head with an ice axe, then shot at least twice in the head with two different guns.

“There was definitely evidence that two different types of ammunition were used,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald also explained that blood stains depicted in the photographs leading from a large pool of blood to the room where Muskox was found dead suggest he dragged himself there after the initial attack. Evidence of the attack with the ice axe, however, was limited because the later gunshots damaged Muskox’s head so that much of his skull “had been obliterated,” MacDonald said.

Lambert continued to argue that Vermillion had acted in self defense and that his calls to 911 and initial interviews showed that.

“He tried to kill me,” Lambert said as he read from the transcript of one of Vermillion’s 911 calls. “I reacted. I reacted.”

The hearing concluded with an acknowledgement that Lambert is still waiting to receive some evidence for the case, which Leaders said he planned to follow up on.

Vermillion’s trial call, originally set for later this week, was moved back to Jan. 27, with his trial to follow the week of Feb. 1. Lambert cited childcare issues as a reason he would be unable to go to trial in January.

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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