Boy, 14, denies murder charge in fatal shooting of another 14-year-old boy in Vermont

By ALAN J. KEAYS

VtDigger

Published: 11-01-2023 2:31 AM

MIDDLEBURY — A 14-year-old Burlington boy faces a charge of second-degree murder after police said he was waving a loaded firearm in a vehicle parked in Bristol when it discharged and killed another 14-year-old passenger seated in front of him on Monday night.

A police affidavit shows authorities brought the charges based on interviews with the other two passengers in the car, including an unnamed juvenile and an 18-year-old who said he heard the defendant say, “I didn’t mean to shoot you,” after the gun discharged. 

The defendant appeared Tuesday afternoon in Addison County Superior criminal court in Middlebury for an arraignment on the murder charge and counts of manslaughter and aggravated assault in the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Madden Gouveia, of Shelburne. 

Addison County State’s Attorney Eva Vekos made the unusual move to charge the teen as an adult, making the proceedings against him public. Vekos would not take questions following the arraignment.

 

Defense attorney Jonathan Heppell entered not guilty pleas on behalf of his client during the hearing. Heppell also declined comment after the hearing. 

VTDigger generally does not identify juvenile defendants and is not doing so in this case at this time.

The teen, wearing red prison clothing, was ordered by Judge David Fenster to be held pending the continuation of a hearing Wednesday to determine whether he would stay in custody while the case against him proceeds. 

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The hearing Tuesday afternoon stretched more than two hours, with several recesses as the attorneys and the judge dealt with challenges around raising confidential juvenile matters related to the case in an adult courtroom that is open to the public.

 

Heppell asked the judge to release the teen back to the custody of his parents, who were seated with his siblings behind him in the gallery. The defendant attends school in Chittenden County and has lived in the area for the past “seven or eight years,” Heppell said.

Vekos, the prosecutor, objected to the teen’s release, arguing that at least two youths in the car “could clearly see there was a live round in the chamber,” leading to the killing.

She noted that “although (the defendant) is a juvenile,” the felony charge carries a possible life sentence. The teen would require an “interest of justice” hearing to be placed in an adult facility, she said, because Vermont has no other options for holding juveniles charged with serious felonies as adults. 

Vekos said there were other arguments she would make in favor of keeping him in custody, but they involved confidential juvenile matters, and she said she could not present them in open court.

 

At one point in the hearing, when it appeared the courtroom might be closed to the public, a VTDigger reporter objected. Fenster, the judge, asked if a filing to intervene in the case had been made. A Seven Days reporter told the judge that his news organization had an attorney ready to do so. 

After a short break, the attorney, Matthew Byrne, submitted the filing.

“It would be nearly impossible for the state to carry its burden given the gravity of the offenses that are at issue here and the need for the public to know about what’s going on,” Byrne said of the move to close the courtroom. 

Fenster agreed to keep the courtroom open to the public. 

Vekos then called a state Department for Children and Families worker to testify via video. But Heppell objected, saying that the worker’s testimony could reveal confidential information about his client or other juveniles.

The hearing also had several delays as the court dealt with technical issues surrounding connecting online with an interpreter to translate the hearing into Somali for the defendant’s parents, who attended the proceeding. Heppell told the judge that his client did understand and spoke English.

The judge decided to continue the hearing until Wednesday morning when it became clear they could not finish by the end of the day. 

A police affidavit, written by Detective Sgt. Seth Richardson of the Vermont State Police and made public after the hearing, described the defendant traveling on Monday to the Bristol home of another juvenile — who was referred to only by initials — with Gouveia and an 18-year-old driver, Mason Bullock.

 

Police were called around 7:20 p.m. to reports that a boy had been shot in the back and wasn’t breathing. Bristol Police Officer Francis Smith arrived at a driveway on North Street and saw Bullock and the unnamed juvenile standing in a driveway, according to the affidavit. 

Gouveia was taken by ambulance to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, where he was pronounced dead.

The Bristol officer reported that the youths initially told him that the shooting was the result of a driveby. However, according to the affidavit, the window of the vehicle was intact, and a trooper later found “a small cylindrical defect” located on the backrest of the front passenger’s seat.

Bullock later met with detectives at the New Haven state police barracks and reported that he had driven to the unnamed juvenile’s home on North Street in Bristol on Monday afternoon with the defendant and Gouveia, according to the affidavit. 

After the unnamed juvenile got in the car, the defendant was in the back passenger seat holding a 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun, Bullock told police, according to the affidavit. Bullock reported that he then heard the gun discharge and he heard Gouveia, who was in the front passenger seat, say he had been shot.

“Bullock then heard (the defendant) say, ‘I didn’t mean to shoot you,’ ” the affidavit stated.

The unnamed juvenile was also questioned at the New Haven state police barracks, the detective wrote in the affidavit. He told police that the gun belonged to Gouveia and he believed it had been stolen. The juvenile reported that after Gouveia passed him the gun, he removed the magazine and “racked” the gun to empty it, Richardson wrote. 

The juvenile said he then put a bullet in the magazine and put the magazine back into the gun, but the defendant grabbed the gun and racked it, the affidavit stated. The juvenile said he “was able to remove the magazine while (the defendant) held it,” and placed the magazine in his pocket.

“He said (the defendant) was waving the gun around at which time it went off,” according to the affidavit. “(The juvenile) said he heard the bang and checked himself to see if he was shot.”

Instead, the affidavit stated, the juvenile reported it was Gouveia who had been shot. 

If convicted of the offense of second-degree alone, the defendant faces up to life in prison. 

Monday night’s shooting marked the eight homicide or suspicious death case reported in Vermont this month.