Richard Gagnon whispered the words 'I love you' to his family he walked into a crowded courtroom. The 60-year-old former Brattleboro Co-op employee is charged with gunning down his boss last summer. It's a murder charge he's been denying -- until now.
Vt. Superior Court Judge David Suntag: On August 9th of 2011 in Brattleboro did you in fact cause the death of Michael Martin?
Richard Gagnon: Yes I did.
Gagnon pled guilty to second degree murder as part of a deal he reached with the state. Last August the co-op wanted Gagnon to resign, claiming he was creating a hostile work environment. His supervisor, 59-year-old Michael Martin, offered Gagnon a severance package. A few days later the disgruntled employee returned to the co-op and shot the father of six in the head.
"Everyday since this terrible crime, my family has been broken," said Joann Berno, Martin's sister.
Martin's distraught family told the judge how his murder has changed their lives. "I will never hold my father's hand. He'll never kiss my forehead. We'll never meet for breakfast as we always did," said Leah Martin, Martin's daughter.
Others had much harsher words for the confessed killer across the aisle. "Only a coward or a cold-blooded murderer would shoot an unarmed man in the back of the head. You, Mr. Gagnon, are both," said Cathy Fisk, Martin's sister.
"I wish you had turned the gun to your head and blew it off, because I'll tell you what -- my father never deserved that," said Ella Martin, Martin's daughter.
Gagnon told the court he is not a violent man, apologized to the Martin family, took full responsibility for the killing and asked for forgiveness.
He will serve 17 years in prison -- both families avoiding the trauma of a trial. But it's a deal prosecutors readily admit the victim's family doesn't agree with. "I search my heart and cannot forgive you. I do however have compassion for your family as I know they too are victims," Joann Berno said.
Gagnon's loved ones called out to him as he left the courtroom -- still coming to grips with why the 20 year co-op employee snapped.
For the victim's family, keeping him locked up until age 77 is the first step towards closure. "I guess we just move on, the best way we can. It's going to be difficult," Berno said.
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