Townshend Double Homicide Trial: Victim's son, medical examiner testify on Day Six

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BRATTLEBORO — Brenton Lott, 27, of Marlboro, was called to testify in the case of State vs. Robin O'Neill Friday morning.

"I saw my father at the funeral home with bullet holes in him," Lott said when asked when he last saw his father, Steven Lott.

O'Neill, 64, formerly of Townsend, is being tried for double homicide after allegedly shooting Steven and Jamis Lott, Brenton's brother, on Nov. 18, 2014.

Brenton Lott lived with Steven full time from 2004 to 2008. When Brenton went away to college, he said he always knew he had a room at his dad's house.

In 2014, when O'Neill moved in with Steven, Brenton said he thought the two seemed "compatible." He still had a room at his dad's house. Brenton said he spent roughly 10 hours a week at Steven's house in 2014.

Brenton told the court that the last time he saw his father on, November 2014, neither O'Neill nor his father were acting unusual. He saw no bruises or marks on O'Neill; though previous witnesses have testified they saw bruises on her face and O'Neill said she got them from Steven Lott.

After his father's death, Brenton said, O'Neill still had stuff left behind at the house.

"I burned a lot of it," Brenton said. He said he brought the remaining items to a hospice, and some items were left behind in her car.

During Wednesday's hearing, the state presented evidence that there were three guns found at the crime scene, and one was thought to have belonged to Jamis Lott. But Brenton testified on Friday that Jamis did not own a gun or a gun holster. Brenton said that he had seen guns in the house while he visited, however, and that he and his father used to shoot targets outside.

Later in the hearing Tracy Shriver, Windham County State's Attorney, highlighted the importance of Brenton's testimony. "The defense has made a very big deal about the fact that there were shell casings outside," she said.

Dr. Elizabeth Bundock, the deputy chief medical examiner for the state of Vermont, was also called to testify about the autopsies of Steven and Jamis's bodies.

Bundock said it was her opinion that Jamis was shot first in the back of the head before being shot in the neck. The shots were taken from what Bundock calls an "intermediate distance," less than a few feet away, but not within a few inches. Bundock is able to determine relative distance from gun residue left behind. Some distances cannot be determined because there is no gun residue. Having no gun residue suggests that the gun was shot from more than a few feet away.

Steven Lott had a total of 12 gun wounds, according to Bundock. A few of shots were taken from an intermediate distance, but many might have been shot from farther than a few feet away. Bundock suspected that some of Lott's wounds, located on his right thigh and around his groin area were shot after, or at the time of, his death, though she couldn't say with certainty. Bundock said he died from wounds received to the head and the chest.

O'Neill's defense attorney, Ian Carleton, questioned Bundock about her ability to determine where the shooter was in relation to the victims. Bundock clarified that she could not precisely tell where a shooter was located at the scene. She also stated that she had no opinion or evidence about who the shooter was, and that she could not determine the time of death for the two men.

After the jury was dismissed for the day, the state introduced evidence it said it was being careful to withhold from jury members so far — O'Neill's diary.

Co-defense council Kevin Lumpkin opposed the introduction of the diary. "It's confusing and prejudicial," he said.

Lumpkin characterized the entries as "stream of consciousness" and said there were many quotes that weren't attributed to anyone. The diary itself was written in tiny hand writing, and was hard to read. It identified people in O'Neill's life using initials. S     ometimes it used only single initials. Lumpkin argued that it would take too much time for the jury to understand many of the entries.

"The single initials are already quite opaque," Judge, Katherine Hayes agreed.

Shriver said there were multiple instances in which O'Neill had been quoted saying the diary should be used as evidence. "Miss O'Neill says repeatedly that the police should obtain this document, read it and make it the bible of this case."

Hayes decided to take a look at the diary entries herself, but even from looking at just the first page she took issue with it.

"I'm seeing things that are like, pssh, who cares?" she said, deciding that further review of the document was needed before she would admit it as evidence.

Most of the diary entries the state sought to use were about O'Neill's relationship to Steven Lott and about her state of mind before the shooting. Some of the diary entries appear to mention other women in Lott's life unfavorably. Others seem to suggest that O'Neill was unsatisfied with her sex life with Lott. The state of O'Neill and Lott's engagement also goes back and forth throughout the entries. An entry the state wished to suppress was about O'Neill's history with blackouts, while the defense wanted to use it. Eventually the defense agreed to leave it out.

One entry that Hayes ruled the jury could see had a sentence that read, "S said I threaten to kill him." In the margins another sentence read "so she knows he's alive."

Hayes eventually determined that she would take the diary read and let both the defense and the prosecution know on Monday whether or not the jury could see them.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. on Monday.

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 153. Or you can follow her @birchharmony.


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