BARRE — A Montpelier man will remain held without bail in his attempted murder case.
A bail review hearing for Tyreke Morton, 19, concluded Tuesday in Washington County criminal court with Judge Kirstin K. Schoonover ruling Morton will continue to be held without bail. Morton pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of attempted murder in November 2017.
If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Morton is being held without bail at Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport.
Tuesday’s hearing was a continuance of the hearing started Friday where Morton’s attorney, Dawn Seibert, of the Defender General’s office, argued her client should be released to a facility run by Spectrum Youth & Family Services in Burlington. Morton wouldn’t have been at the facility 24/7, so Seibert said she had multiple people willing to supervise Morton when he was not at the facility. She said she wasn’t contesting that the evidence against Morton was great, but argued his defense would revolve around his diminished capacity at the time of the incident. She said outside that incident, where Morton experienced a psychotic episode, many people would testify that Morton is a “good kid.”
Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault argued for Morton to stay behind bars because no conditions of release would guarantee public safety. Thibault said if not for the fortunate intervention on the victim’s part this likely would have been a double-murder case instead of two attempted murders.
The victim testified Friday she believed Morton would have killed her and her 3-year-old son if she hadn’t been able to get her and the child out of the house by crawling out a window.
“At this point, the court releasing Morton today would be taking a roll of the dice for public safety that would be unwarranted and unjustified based upon the evidence presented,” he said.
Schoonover sided with Thibault, saying while Morton may be well regarded by his friends and family, and appears to be a different person than the one that is accused of attempted murder, the incident that Morton was said to be involved in was “horrific.”
She ordered Morton remain held without bail.
After the hearing the victim told The Times Argus she was happy Morton will remain behind bars. She broke down in tears during the hearing when her and her son escaping the home was discussed.
Detective Sgt. Michael Kamerling, of the Vermont State Police, said in his affidavit a family fight was reported on Center Road in Calais shortly before midnight in November 2017.
The caller told police his mother had called him screaming that she was in danger. The caller told police Morton was at the woman’s residence and was out of control. Kamerling said the victim then called 911 and reported Morton had stabbed her.
Kamerling said Morton was found at the scene and when police searched him they found a piece of glass that was 6 inches long and 4 inches wide. The victim was found in a home across the street from where Morton was located and Kamerling said she had a stab wound in the upper right part of her chest. He said the woman’s 3-year-old son was with her and he was covered in blood, but he appeared to be uninjured.
The victim told police Morton had been living at her home on and off for the past week and a half. She told police he started acting strangely. The victim said she was on the phone talking to a family member about Morton’s behavior when he knocked on her door, opened it and stabbed her in the chest with a steak knife. The victim then fled the home with her son.
Morton’s case is an unusual one because in July it was moved over to the family court in an attempt to have the case accepted into the state’s youthful offender program. On July 1 the youthful offender law, which had been used for those under the age of 18, expanded to include those who are 18 to 21 years old.
Those in the program are placed on probation and supervised and treated by the Department of Corrections and the Department for Children and Families.
Once a motion is filed seeking youthful offender status, the case automatically moves from criminal court to the family court, becomes confidential and remains confidential unless a judge decides the case isn’t appropriate for youthful offender status. If the case is found inappropriate, it goes back to criminal court.
Because Morton wanted a bail review hearing, the case had to be moved back over to the criminal court because Schoonover said her reading of the law didn’t give her the ability to amend conditions of release or bail in family court.
Thibault argued Morton should have withdrew his motion seeking youthful offender status if he wanted a bail review hearing and was prepared to take the matter up with the state Supreme Court until Morton was ordered held Tuesday.
During Friday’s hearing, Seibert said Thibault was “on a crusade” to roll back the youthful offender law. Thibault took exception to this, and issued a news release Tuesday.
In the news release, he said his office “is supportive of juvenile justice reform” He said the office had 19 cases in the youthful offender program last year. After July 1, 36 cases either sought or were brought into the youthful offender program. Those 36 cases include Morton’s attempted murder case and cases involving sexual assault.
“As our office, and others, continue to identify gaps or ambiguities in the law we will strive to inform the legislature and other stakeholders and seek positive changes,” he said.