Morristown murder suspect pleads not guilty

Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 2:06 PM EDT
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HYDE PARK, Vt. (WCAX) - The man accused of murdering a 29-year-old Hinesburg transgender woman claims it was self-defense.

Seth Brunell, 43, pleaded not guilty Thursday to second-degree murder charges in the stabbing death of Fern Feather on Tuesday in Morristown. According to court documents, Brunell spent several days with Feather and he claimed Feather made a sexual advance. Brunell claimed he stabbed Feather in self-defense, but police say there’s no evidence of that attack.

Many of Feather’s friends attended the court hearing and said they are struggling to come to terms with her death. “I just have been moving forward hour-by-hour, day-by-day and just being as present as I possibly can because of all of our love for Fern and I feel him here with us,” said Jennifer Thoma of Hardwick, Feather’s partner.

Fern Feather recently came out as a trans woman and went by several different pronouns. Thoma says that they were recently talking about writing a book about their lives while taking care of the plants they gathered while traveling across the country together. “He has this amazing gift of bringing people together and bringing out their light through their connection with him because he was so big in that way and inspired other people to bring their exuberance for life and their passion and their unique nature,” Thoma said.

All of the people we spoke to who knew Feather echoed those sentiments. They say Feather was a lover of life who desperately wanted to help others.

Although Fern was a trans woman, Brunell is not being charged with a hate crime. “We are limited to charging the defendant with the evidence that we have, so while there may be an indication of a hate crime here, at this present time in the investigation there is not sufficient evidence to charge the defendant with a hate crime,” said Lamoille County Deputy State’s Attorney Aliena Gerhard.

For now, the community that knew and loved Feather is mourning the loss of someone who they say was beautiful inside and out. “Delightful, sparkly, unconditionally loving. I would say very, very trusting that the universe would catch her and take care of her, she lived fully because of that,” said Meredith Muse of Wheelock.

The judge ordered Brunell to be held without bail.

There is a LGBTQ+ Survivor Support hotline available for anyone who need help.

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