Highgate mother and daughter sentenced for 2017 murder

Published: May. 6, 2022 at 5:15 PM EDT
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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) - A Franklin County Judge Friday sentenced a mother and daughter to serve what will amount to at least five years in prison for the murder of a Highgate man in 2017.

It’s been nearly four years to the day since Erika Guttilla and her mother, Carmen, were arrested for the murder of Troy Ford. Guttilla pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder in the killing of her boyfriend. Carmen, pleaded guilty to accessory to murder.

During the second day of their sentencing in St. Albans Friday, Guttilla finally shared what happened leading up to the shooting. “I can’t keep living like this in my house,” Gutilla testified. On the night of the murder, she says she and her mother, Carmen, were nearing their breaking point. They say Ford had taken over their Highgate home after trading drugs for a place to stay and terrorized the family.

Erika and Carmen Guttilla at their sentencing hearing in St. Albans Friday.
Erika and Carmen Guttilla at their sentencing hearing in St. Albans Friday.(WCAX)

Guttilla says Ford had raped and assaulted her, and that night she grabbed her mother’s gun when walking through the home. “Let’s just bring this in case he was really bad tonight,” she said, the realization finally set in. “What am I going to do going forward now? I’m going to walk around the house I grew up in, that we’ve been in for 30 years with a gun in order to feel safe?”

The Guttillas say they knew the trauma had to end and believed killing Ford was their only way out. After some hesitation, Guttilla says she entered the room he was sleeping in. “I walked across the room and I shot him,” she said.

The relief was short-lived and panic ensued. The mother and daughter used a large sheet of plastic to wrap Ford’s body and placed him in a recycling bin on the back porch. The remains stayed there for nearly a month before they were moved to the woods near their home. They were arrested in May 2018.

“I don’t think what I did defines who I am,” Guttilla told the court. Psychiatric experts testified to the women’s mental state after the murder. Each found they suffered trauma leading up to the shooting and spoke about how that influenced their decision. The defense hoped that trauma would convince the judge to give the Guttillas less than the 20-years-to-life sentence their conviction calls for.

But Franklin County Deputy State’s Attorney John Lavoie pushed for the maximum sentence, arguing that the women had other options besides murder. He urged the judge to make an example out of the case. “This is a case that people do pay attention to,” he said.

Even though Guttilla pulled the trigger, the judge believed both women played an equal role in the death of Ford. He sentenced them to 10 years to life with credit for the four years already behind bars. With Vermont’s new “good time” rule in place, the women could get out by early 2027.

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