A store clerk catches a robbery suspect after a scuffle, but then the suspect dies. Now, the medical examiner says the cause of death was a homicide.
Under Vermont law homicide simply means that Yemalla Sprauve, 34, was killed by another person. It doesn't necessarily mean a crime occurred. If police and prosecutors decide the clerk did nothing wrong and he was acting within the law defending himself, then they don't even have to bring charges.
Police say Sprauve attempted to rob the Champlain Farms convenience store in Vergennes on Sept. 28. The male clerk on duty wrestled a knife away from Sprauve and held her down on the floor. She was unresponsive when police arrived and died on the way to the hospital.
The medical examiner concluded the pressure on her chest from the clerk holding her down in combination with being acutely intoxicated with cocaine caused her heart to stop.
Vergennes police say the Vermont Attorney General's Office is working with the Addison County state's attorney to determine if any charges would be brought against the store clerk.
A legal expert told WCAX News that it's unlikely murder charges would be brought against the clerk unless prosecutors could prove he used excessive force or intended to harm her. If any charges are filed, it's more likely to be along the lines of involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide. The real deciding factor here will be how much force did the clerk use against Sprauve? And was it reasonable in proportion to the threat she posed to him?
The surveillance tape could be a great help to prosecutors when making that determination.