Sentencing begins for mother and daughter in Highgate murder

Published: May. 5, 2022 at 6:40 PM EDT
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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) - A mother and daughter who have pleaded guilty in the 2017 murder of a Franklin County man, faced a judge Thursday for a two-day sentencing hearing in St. Albans.

Erika Guttilla pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder in the killing of her boyfriend, Troy Ford, at her family’s home in Highgate. Her mother, Carmen, pleaded guilty to accessory to murder by providing the gun and helping dispose of the body. The mother and daughter have sat in prison for more than four years, the longest of any female detainees in Vermont. On Thursday, they had the opportunity to share their side of the story with a judge.

“I was constantly trying to get him out of the house,” Guttilla told the judge. She admitted to pulling the trigger, killing Troy Ford in his sleep more than four years ago. She also detailed life at her Highgate home, saying Ford was an aggressive man who abused her mentally, sexually, and physically.

“A lot of times it would get really violent. Things in my room would get broken or knocked over. I would end up with bruises and a black eye,” Guttilla said.

The Guttillas say Ford worked his way into their Highgate home, exchanging drugs with Carmen’s husband for a place to stay. The women say he slowly took over the home, tormenting the family for more than a year. They say he trashed the place and manipulated the family, tearing them apart.

Carmen says Ford even threatened to burn their house down. “I was a mess. I was losing my family. He’d taken everything away from us and I couldn’t get it back,” she said. “I don’t even know what kind of people we got to be anymore. We weren’t ourselves.”

The prosecution argues that calling the police about Ford’s behavior was the solution, not murder. Ford’s sister, Raquel, agrees. “If what they said, if what Erika and her mom said was true, why didn’t you just call the cops and let him be arrested? Why did you have to take his life? Now, he’s gone. Even after this sentencing hearing, you’ll still be able to breathe. You’ll still be able to wake up, write letters, communicate with your family and friends. I can never see my brother again,” she said.

Carmen told Franklin County Deputy State’s Attorney John Lavoie she feared retaliation and believed at the time they had no other choice.

John Lavoie: I’m asking you how you arrived at the decision to kill him.

Carmen Guttilla: No other way out.

The sentencing hearing continues Friday and is expected to include more testimony from Erika Guttilla and what led up to the fatal shooting. Both women face 20 years to life in prison.

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