Man seeks to have Grafton murder conviction thrown out

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NEWFANE — A former Bellows Falls man who was convicted of aiding in the 2002 murders of two people in the Mollie Beattie State Forest in Grafton is seeking to have his conviction thrown out.

Charles "Poncho" Sherman, in hand-written letters submitted to Windham Superior Court, accused the judge in his case of bias, saying the judge presided over the trial of his friend and co-defendant in the murder, and "coherst" his plea in 2005. Sherman claimed the judge said that two people had to have committed the murders of Gregg Enos, 34, of Brattleboro and Colleen Davis, 34, of Athens, whose bodies were found in Enos' truck in the remote state forest. Enos had been stabbed to death and Davis had been beaten to death with a tree branch.

"I feel this judge was bias to my case and do to that and I could not have got a fair sentence or even a fair verdict," Sherman wrote.

Sherman also said his court-appointed lawyer had been "below standers" and had not adequately defended him.

Now-retired Windham Superior Court Judge John Wesley presided over the cases of both Sherman and his co-defendant, Michael Perez of Bellows Falls and New York City. Perez was convicted in November 2004 of both murders, and Sherman entered into a plea agreement about six weeks later, shortly before he was to stand trial. A status conference on Sherman's motion for post conviction relief is slated for Windham Superior Court on Friday. Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Kelly Shriver, who was a deputy prosecutor at the time of the 2002 murder, declined to comment about the case.

Sherman, now 57, is currently being held in a Mississippi prison, the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, run by CoreCivic, a private firm. The state has transferred many of its inmates with lengthy serious sentences to an out-of-state prison. Earlier, Sherman had been held in Camp Hill, Pa. In several hand-written documents, which first were filed in the summer of 2018, Sherman said that his rights under the 5th, 6th and 14th amendments were being violated.

Sherman and Perez had been arrested shortly after the murders of Enos and Davis. Court documents state that Enos and Davis had picked up Sherman and Perez hitchhiking and the four people went to the remote state forest to drink, and to see if they could pull Sherman's truck out of the mud. Perez, who was convicted of aiding in the commission of aggravated murder after a two-week trial in 2004, had said it was Sherman who initiated the murders of Enos and Davis, after a fight broke out. Perez was sentenced to life in prison. Sherman received two concurrent sentences of 20 years to life, and Wesley at the time warned Sherman there was no guarantee he would ever get out of jail.

Matthew Valerio, the Vermont defender general whose office handles prisoner rights' cases, said an attorney from his office would be reviewing Sherman's pro se petition and determine what the issues where. He said he expects the judge on Friday to set a schedule for legal research in the case. He said Sherman's court-appointed lawyer, Patricia Lancaster, could amend Sherman's original petition for post-conviction relief, if research supported a different legal argument. Valerio said he had no knowledge about the Sherman case, but he said his office handled many post-conviction relief petitions from the state's inmates.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or 802 254-2311, ext. 154.

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