Orwat double murder trial set for spring

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BRATTLEBORO — The double murder trial of a Springfield, Mass., man charged with shooting a couple to death in 2017 and then setting a Townshend cabin on fire to cover up the deaths won't occur until next year.

Justin Orwat, 44, has pleaded not guilty in the deaths of Steven Lovely, 43, formerly of Holyoke, Mass., and Amanda Sanderson, 35, of Brattleboro, on Oct. 27, 2017.

Orwat, who is being held without bail, allegedly shot the couple at the home where Orwat and his wife, Tami, who were homeless, were staying with Lovely and Sanderson. Orwat and Lovely reportedly had argued over drugs before the shooting.

Lovely and Sanderson were squatting at the cabin on Shirley Circle that burned.

Windham County Deputy State's Attorney Steven Brown said Tuesday it would likely be the spring

before all pre-trial preparation is completed.

Orwat's court-appointed attorney, Daniel Sedon of Chelsea, told Treadwell that he was part of the defense team in another murder trial in Windsor County next spring, and scheduling might be complicated.

Sedon is one of the defense attorneys in the retrial of Kyle Bolaski of Springfield, Vt. His trial was originally set for November, Sedon said, but it was moved back to April by the court.

Treadwell gave both attorneys until the end of January to complete pre-trial interviews of witnesses and investigators to the October 2017 double murder.

Both Sedon and Brown said it was a complicated case and that police had compiled an abundance of information and evidence that needed to be sorted and evaluated.

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"This has gone smoothly to date," said Sedon, a contract attorney with the Vermont defender general's office. He said the double murder case had "far fewer witnesses ... but a lot of information" to analyze.

He said Orwat, who was in court for Tuesday's hearing, had been kept informed about preparations, and Orwat later told Treadwell he was satisfied with Sedon's work on his behalf.

"We are eager to move the case forward," Brown told the judge, noting that some family members of Lovely and Sanderson want the case to be resolved.

"I think the trial will be ready in the spring," he said. He said he expects the trial will take two weeks, with additional time for jury selection.

He said he expects that jury selection could be completed in two days if a jury questionnaire can be used. The questionnaire asks prospective jurors questions that ordinarily would be covered in open court.

Treadwell asked Sedon if he planned on filing any motions to suppress, but Sedon said he expected to file "numerous motions in limine" to restrict some of the evidence collected by the police from the murder scene.

He said he would likely want to limit the scope of evidence presented to the jury.

Brown, the prosecutor, said he would likely be paring down the list of potential witnesses in the double murder trial.

Orwat is charged with aggravated murder and felony arson, and faces life in prison without parole. Orwat has a lengthy criminal record in Massachusetts, and received a 12- to 15-year sentence for his role in a gang-related murder in 1995.

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


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