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Was it suicide? How police follow the evidence in complex cases

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 5:49 PM EDT
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KILLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Investigators are still looking into the death of a Mount Holly woman in Killington last week. Police are trying to determine whether she died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound or if the man in the car with her pulled the trigger.

So how do investigators go about making that determination when there are no other witnesses? We asked a retired Vermont State Police lieutenant.

Brian Miller tells me in cases like this, investigators rely heavily on physical evidence.

“It will just take some time, but I think they will come out with the full story,” Miller said.

Miller is a retired Vermont State Police detective. I asked him to analyze the case involving 28-year-old Brittany Bouthiette. Police say she died from a gunshot wound inside a vehicle last Wednesday night in Killington.

Her boyfriend, Cody Ahonen, 28, told police Boothiette was despondent and shot herself. But investigators have not yet concluded this is a case of suicide.

Miller says in cases involving two people-- one of whom is no longer alive-- investigators focus on what they find at the scene.

“The physical evidence doesn’t lie. Any evidence that will either support or contradict his statement that is located or uncovered during the investigation will be important,” Miller explained.

Background is also done on the individuals involved, looking into any mental illness and the history of the relationship.

And their movement for the 24 hours leading up to the incident is tracked to see where they had been.

Asking the public if anyone had seen anything is also helpful.

“Was the vehicle passing other vehicles? Did it stop at a gas station and somebody witnessed any interaction between the two people?” Miller said.

He says the case in Killington has unique challenges because it is rare for someone to shoot a gun in a moving car.

Nearly half of all homicide cases in Vermont in recent years are domestic violence and Miller says it is very common for only two people to be present when one dies.

“These cases are tragic; they are complex,” Miller said. “That’s probably why they haven’t given you any information. There is a lot of potential leads that need to be run down, a lot of factors.”

State police say they are waiting for the medical examiner’s report to complete their work. This includes toxicology testing which can take several weeks or longer.

Related Story:

Death investigation underway in Killington

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