NEWPORT, VT - Deontae McNeil, charged with attacking Donelle Morin in an apparent attempted robbery that went awry Oct 14. 2010, in Charleston, dodged a bullet last night when the jury told the court that it could not come to a decision. The court declared a mistrial.
McNeil's alleged accomplice, Andrew Ladouceur, who made a deal with the state that netted him a 4-12 year prison term, testified against McNeil.
The two-day trial was punctuated with attacks by defense attorney Bob Katims that the state police mishandled evidence, botched a photo identification, failed to follow up on other leads and had no DNA or physical evidence to tie his client, McNeil, to the attack. The case seemed to rely on the victim's recounting of the events of that day and on the testimony of Ladouceur.
Ladouceur said he was in debt to McNeil and had heard that Morin had 300 pounds of pot in her basement. The two men conspired to steal the marijuana. Ladouceur said the men then drove from Connecticut, where McNeil is from, to the Northeast Kingdom where they obtained guns from a friend of Ladouceur on the pretext that they were going hunting.
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Ladouceur said the men conned Morin into getting into a car with them and they then pulled a gun on her. Morin panicked and fought with them. The gun discharged, just missing Ladouceur. Ladouceur stabbed Morin, but she managed to escape and run to her vehicle, where she was again threatened with a gun by McNeil. Ladouceur said McNeil fired a bullet into Morin's car and dragged her out of it. A few minutes later, Morin managed to escape the men and run to the woods, but not before being shot.
Ladouceur told police that he deliberately let her go because he was afraid McNeil would kill the woman, but on cross examination, defense counsel got Ladouceur to admit that his prime concern at the time was to save his own skin.
Morin received cuts to her arm and bullet wounds to her leg and foot. Morin told the jury that she was convinced the men were going to kill her.
The case was prosecuted by State's Attorney Alan Franklin.