Wednesday February 6, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- A man who pleaded guilty to shooting his daughter's boyfriend in September 2011 was sentenced Tuesday to 5 to 15 years in jail.

Ed Tetreault, 57, of Townshend, has been incarcerated since November 2011, and was given credit for time served.

During his sentencing, Tetreault told the court that he was sorry for what he had done and sorry for putting his family on "an emotional roller coaster."

"I am sorry for the physical and emotional pain that they had to endure because of my actions," he said. "Every day I think about it and regret I can't take it back."

Though the state was asking for a minimum sentence of 8 to 15 years, the judge stated it wasn't in the best interests of rehabilitating a man with a long history of hard work, who was dedicated to his family, and who had no criminal record.

However, Judge David Suntag said he could not ignore the serious nature of firing a gun in a household in which other people were present.

"Those bullets might have gone anywhere," said the judge, adding it could have resulted in a tragedy of "monumental proportions."

Tetreault was originally charged with three counts of first degree aggravated domestic assault with a weapon and one count of aggravated assault, each carrying up to a 15-year sentence. He agreed to plead guilty to one count of aggravated assault and the other counts were dismissed.

According to court documents, the day before Tetreault shot his victim there was an altercation between the two, in which Tetreault was head-butted by the victim.


Advertisement

Twenty-four hours later, Tetreault returned to a home in Townshend with a .22 pistol, threatening to shoot his wife, daughter and his daughter's boyfriend. During a struggle, in which both men were on the ground, Tetreault reached over his shoulder and shot the firearm twice, hitting his victim in the jaw and shoulder, stated the documents.

Though his victim chose not to attend the sentencing, Suntag allowed Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Shriver to read from a statement he gave during a deposition.

"All I see is a black pistol in my face," she read.

After the shots were fired, he said, "My arm went dead ... I felt my teeth fly out ..."

He ran from the home, "freaking out," needing help, and was driven to Grace Cottage Hospital by Tetreault's wife.

The victim said the scariest part of the ordeal was knowing he needed care immediately, that he was going to die "but you're far away from help."

Gary Stevens, a probation and parole officer based in Brattleboro, said he recently spoke to the victim, who told Stevens that while he wished the best for the defendant, jail time is needed.

In a statement submitted by Tetreault's daughter, which was read by her mother, she wrote that her father has always been a loving, supportive and present father throughout her life. He taught her how to do woodworking, took her camping, explored the forest with her and helped her to set up a home studio for her jewelry business.

"I am blessed to have two loving parents," she wrote.

She urged the court to help her father get help for his alcoholism and get him into a program that would help heal his deep emotional wounds.

"Allow us the opportunity to heal together," she wrote. "We are a family that sticks together and we don't give up on each other."

Tetreault's wife told the court that she met her husband while they were both attending the University of Vermont, where they bonded over "calculus and biology."

Though she left UVM to care for a sick parent, she remained in touch with Tetreault and they eventually married and moved to Grafton, where he took on three jobs to support his family.

In 1988, his family purchased a property in West Townshend, and Tetreault went about renovating a home there.

Though she understood in the plea agreement that the defense was asking for a five-year minimum sentence, "I would prefer an even shorter minimum."

She called the shooting incident an "outlier ... fueled by alcoholism."

She also expressed concern that Tetreault would serve his sentence outside of Vermont, where cognitive therapy programs wouldn't be available to him.

While Suntag said he would like to see Tetreault enrolled in a program, it was up to the Department of Corrections whether he will remain in Vermont or be housed in an out-of-state facility.

If he stays in Vermont, he won't be eligible for treatment programs until he has served 33 months of his sentence.

Following the presentation of the statements, Shriver told the court that for a number of reasons, Tetreault should be given an eight-year minimum sentence. Those reasons included his decision to bring a loaded gun into a home where he was not welcome, that he did it while drinking and that he confronted family members during a time of turmoil.

"(The victim) was protecting the women," she said. "Tetreault decided to struggle. Most importantly, he decided to pull the trigger, not once but twice, at close range, causing significant injury, permanent injury. Those decisions by Mr. Tetreault deserve to be punished."

But Tetreault's public defender, Mimi Brill, told the court that it was looking at a man who has spent his entire life being good until he committed this "terrible action."

"It's your job to judge him at the very worse day of his life," she told the judge, while imploring him to look at her client "as the whole man," a wonderful brother, a good father and a very caring husband.

Tetreault then spoke to the court.

"Going home that night was the biggest mistake I've ever made in my life," he said, telling the judge he knows he has a drinking problem and has taken steps to deal with it.

"I had no intention of hurting him that night," said Tetreault. "Hopefully someday he can forgive me for what I did."

He told his wife and daughters that he hoped one day they could rebuild their lives together and thanked his family for standing by him during this difficult time.

Suntag called the shooting "a terrible crime ... one step short of our legislative scheme for attempted murder."

Tetreault stepped into a volatile situation, under the influence of alcohol with a loaded gun.

"We have always known this is a dangerous, dangerous recipe," said Suntag.

Nevertheless, said Suntag, what Tetreault did was "not usual" behavior for him.

"There were no prior events pointed out suggesting this might happen," he said. "That's not the usual case we have here (in this court)."

Suntag also took a moment to criticize the corrections system in Vermont, saying it "makes no sense" that inmates have no access to alcohol or substance abuse counseling while in prison.

But the judge also told Tetreault he can't blame his actions on drinking.

"Without question it was a contributing factor. But in reality, millions of people in the world get terribly drunk, are alcoholics, and don't ever do anything like you did. There's got to be more to this than drinking too much. You've got to look beyond the alcohol to make sure nothing like this happens again."

A restitution hearing was scheduled for six months from now because the medical bills for Tetreault's victim haven't been completely tallied up. So far they've amounted to $4,000, said Shriver.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.