Highgate daughter barred from contacting mother in jail

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By , VTDigger.org

Erika Guttilla
Erika Guttilla appears in Vermont Superior Court in St. Albans on Tuesday. Pool photo by Greg Lamoureaux/County Courier

ST. ALBANS – A Highgate woman pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of her ex-boyfriend, whose body was allegedly stored in a trash can for weeks and then dumped on an abandoned playground.

Franklin County Superior Court Judge Martin Maley ordered Erika Guttilla, 31, to be held behind bars without bail and said she could not have contact with her mother, Carmen Guttilla, who is being held without bail in the same South Burlington jail on the same charge.

Erika Guttilla said in an affidavit she shot 35-year-old Troy Ford in the face as he slept in the family home in Highgate because he had sexually abused her and struck fear in the whole family, which he also allegedly supplied with heroin and crack cocaine.

Carmen Guttilla, 60, said she helped her daughter wrap up Ford’s body in a carpet and store his remains in a garbage container on a back porch of the family home for weeks, according to court records.

Both Carmen and Erika told police that they discussed killing Ford because he was destroying the family, and that on the night of the shooting, Carmen left a Glock pistol on a dresser before Erika took it into her bedroom and fired it into the head of Ford, who was fast asleep.

Erika Guttilla’s attorney, Steve Dunham, argued against the restriction preventing the two from talking in prison. Dunham said his client is going through a difficult time and relies on support from her family, including her jailed mother.

“She’s currently in a situation she’s never been in before and all by herself,” Dunham said of his client.

Carmen Guttilla
Carmen Guttilla. Photo courtesy Vermont State Police

The judge said at least during the “early proceedings” of the case, he would agree to the prosecutor’s request to impose a no-contact condition.

Maley said he understood that cutting Erika Guttilla off from her mother may seem “pretty heavy-handed,” and would be willing to reassess the restriction in the near future.

Dunham did not contest the holding of Erika Guttilla without bail, at least at this point. He said he expected that a different attorney would be representing Guttilla going forward.

Franklin County Deputy State’s Attorney John Lavoie requested Wednesday the condition that Erika Guttilla not have contact with several family members, including her mother, because he didn’t want to taint any statements or testimony they may provide in the case going forward.

Erika Guttilla’s current boyfriend, Corey Cassani, 28, is also charged in the case, pleading not guilty Tuesday to three counts, including obstructing justice, acting as an accessory after the fact, and removal of a dead body.

Cassani, along with Erika and Carmen Guttilla, together moved Ford’s body from the porch to a wooded abandoned playground, leaving it wrapped in a sheet and placing tree branches over it, according to affidavits.

Neighbors walking dogs discovered the remains late last week. Police arrested Carmen Guttilla first, and then tracked down Cassani and Erika Guttilla on Tuesday morning near a hotel on Route 7 in South Burlington.

Erika Guttilla was expected to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon, but invoked her right to wait a day before entering a plea.

In court Wednesday, Guttilla wore a red prison jumpsuit with her wrist and ankles in shackles. She did not speak during the brief hearing.

In addition to pleading not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder, she also pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a charge of obstructing justice.

She faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of the murder charge.

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