Woman pleads not guilty to hatchet murder of Vermont shelter employee

Published: Apr. 4, 2023 at 1:18 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 4, 2023 at 6:45 PM EDT
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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - A Vermont woman living at a homeless shelter was arraigned on Tuesday for first-degree murder, accused of killing a shelter employee.

The facts of the alleged murder are disturbing. Police say a shelter coordinator in Brattleboro was brutally attacked.

Zaaina Mahvish-Jammeh, 38, did not speak at her arraignment Tuesday. Her lawyer entered a plea of not guilty to the first-degree murder charge on her behalf.

The alleged murder happened Monday morning at the Morningside House. Court paperwork states Mahvish-Jammeh, a resident of the shelter, specifically asked to meet with the victim before attacking her with a hatchet she purchased just two days earlier.

“I am sure that there will be a lot of community conversations about this case going forward but right now, I would ask folks to focus on the facts that Leah Rosin-Pritchard lost her life,” Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver said.

Shelter coordinator Leah Rosin-Pritchard, 36, suffered injuries to the face, neck and torso and was pronounced dead at the scene. The bludgeoning was captured on security video at the house and was witnessed by at least two other staff members.

Court papers state Mahvish-Jammeh was heard shouting, “I like you, it’s Leah I don’t like.”

Mahvish-Jammeh had been living at the house for months.

“I don’t have an exact time on that but she had been there at least for some time, possibly as long as last summer,” Shriver said.

During the arraignment, the judge ordered that Mahvish-Jammeh undergo a mental evaluation.

Groundworks Collaborative, the organization that runs the shelter, issued a statement that said, in part: “Leah Rosin-Pritchard is irreplaceable. She was a wonderfully strong, positive, beautiful and compassionate person who gave generously of her spirit and skills in support of all Morningside House residents and her professional colleagues.

“There are no words to express the depth of loss felt by her Groundworks teammates and our hearts go out to her family and friends.”

“What hits personally for me is there are definitely larger community conversations that we need to have built. We can’t escape and we can’t ignore and we can’t disrespect the fact that someone lost their life,” Shriver said.

The defendant is being held without bail until that competency hearing. If convicted, she faces the possibility of life behind bars.

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Woman arrested for murder at Brattleboro homeless shelter