Judge to rule on Vail murder suspect’s trial today
January 28, 2010
EAGLE – Prosecutors showed a video in court Wednesday that they say depicts murder suspect Rossi Moreau killing another patron in a West Vail bar.
In the video, taken from security cameras, Moreau sits on the floor against a wall in the Sandbar and points his gun at Gary Kitching, a Carbondale doctor, prosecutors said. Kitching crumples to the ground and Moreau, still sitting on the floor, continues to shoot at Kitching, the video allegedly shows.
Kitching, 70, died at the scene of multiple gunshot wounds.
The video was shown as evidence in a preliminary hearing Wednesday for Moreau, 63, of Vail, who is accused of first-degree murder in the Nov. 7 shooting. He is also charged with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree assault and two counts of menacing.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert tried Wednesday to establish probable cause that Moreau committed those crimes, and Eagle County Judge Katharine Sullivan will rule today on whether that standard was met. If it was, the case will be bound over to District Court.
In his closing argument, public defender Dana Christiansen asked Sullivan to not bind over three of the counts: one attempted murder charge, the second-degree assault charge and one menacing charge.
Laying on his back
Kitching had gone to the bar with his wife to watch the University of Southern California football game, and, preparing to leave, had gone to his car to see if it was on satellite radio, said Vail Police Detective Justin Dill, lead investigator for the case.
Meanwhile, Moreau had begun a shooting spree with a .45-caliber handgun after employees tried to escort him out of the bar, prosecutors say. He had already shot three people when Kitching returned to the bar, according to police.
When Kitching returned to find his wife, he encountered Moreau sitting against a wall in the bar, several feet away from where Lani Kitching was hiding under a coffee table and behind a couch, Dill said.
“She remembers (Moreau) very clearly saying, ‘You (expletive), how many of you (same expletive) did I kill?’ and then a pause and then, ‘Oops, no more ammo,'” Dill said. “She stated that she didn’t realize her husband had come back in and been shot pretty much about 10 feet where she was secluded under that coffee table.”
After Moreau stopped shooting, he lay nearly motionless on his back on the floor for several minutes, no more than 20 feet away from Kitching, the video shows. The video shows him then making two cell phone calls.
The video then shows a special operations unit storming the bar, and apprehending Moreau, who had moved under a table.
Lt. Greg Daly of the Avon Police, who was commanding the unit, testified that Moreau did not comply with officers’ commands that he drop his gun.
“It appeared he wanted us to shoot him,” Daly said.
Daly grabbed Moreau’s wrist and wrested the gun away from him, he said.
Jovial, then a change
Moreau arrived at the bar at around 5:30 p.m., about two hours before the shootings, and had several whiskey drinks, Dill said. At first, Moreau seemed jovial, friendly and outgoing, witnesses told police.
But he got into an altercation with a group of three construction workers, Dill said. The men didn’t want to talk to Moreau, and told him to go away, Dill said. At about the same time, Moreau “got in the face” of a woman who was sitting at the bar with her family, Dill said.
One witness described Moreau looking at him then in a “crazy eyed” manner, Dill said.
At that time, employees of the bar asked Moreau to leave, Dill said. Manager Jason Barber, along with other employees and patrons, are seen escorting Moreau out of the bar in the video.
Moreau resists, and falls twice – once onto his back, the video shows. Witnesses said Moreau seemed embarrassed and humiliated by the fall, Dill said.
Once outside the bar, Moreau pulled out a black handgun and shot at a group of people, according to witness accounts. Barber was shot in the arm, police say. The video shows the group, including Barber, running back into the bar.
Moreau walked west outside the front of the bar, toward the Sports Authority, and shot Justin Center, one of the three construction workers with whom Moreau had talked to earlier, police said. Center was smoking a cigarette outside the bar, Dill said. Center’s leg was grazed by a bullet, police said. The alleged shooting of Center is not shown on the video.
Dill said that Moreau then re-entered the bar, and, according to witnesses, said, “Anyone else?”
‘Why did you shoot me?’
The video shows Moreau re-enter the bar and apparently reload his gun. He then allegedly shot Jim Lindley, of Vail, who was a patron at the bar. Lindley is seen dropping to the floor in the video.
“Mr. Lindley indicated that he was at the bar, and he had no idea why he had been shot,” Dill said. “He said he had heard the ruckus, the defendant came in shot him. He went down to the ground. The only statement he made was ‘Why did you shoot me? Why me?'”
In the video, Moreau then stands over Lindley as he allegedly shoots him several more times.
Lindley was shot four times. He suffered injuries to his abdomen, elbow, forearm, pancreas, diaphragm, spleen and lung, Dill said. Lindley has since been released from a Denver hospital and is recovering from his injuries.
The video then shows Moreau walking to a wall, near the kitchen, where he sat down.
Two men, bartender Anton “Tony” Eisel and patron Steve Corr, appear at the kitchen door, just beside where Moreau was sitting, Dill said.
“Tony Eisel indicated that he saw legs when he came out,” Dill said. “He described the defendant as whipping around the corner, pointing a gun at him and saying, ‘Who the fuck is that?’ That’s when he raised his arms and said, ‘Rossi, it’s Tony.’ He said the defendant then said, ‘Get the fuck out of here.'”
In the video, Kitching then approaches, and Moreau allegedly shoots him.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Robert Kurtzman, who conducted the autopsy of Kitching, testified Wednesday that the Carbondale man was struck in the chest, the left thigh and the arm. The bullet that pierced his arm then entered his back, where it damaged his spleen. Kitching likely died from blood loss or failure of his lungs, Kurtzman said.
Getting some ‘recognition’
The video shows special-operations unit team members escorting Lani Kitching out from behind the couch after Moreau is apprehended. She pauses over her husband’s body, looking down at him for a second, and officers her whisk her out of the bar, the video shows.
After Moreau was taken into custody, he made statements to police that included “You have no idea how long I’ve been trying not to do this,” and “Is that what it takes for people to pay attention to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)?” Dill said.
Moreau, a Vietnam veteran, has long claimed that he suffers from the disorder stemming from his Army service.
In a four-hour interview with police that night at the Vail Police Department, Moreau told police that he was “pretty sure I killed some people tonight,” but didn’t remember anything about the shooting itself, Dill said.
“He stated that he didn’t know what set him off, but somebody must have prodded him,” Dill said.
Moreau said he went to the Sandbar that night because he was lonely, and that Veterans Day was coming up and he wanted to get some “recognition,” Dill said.
Moreau carried a gun and two magazines to the bar that night, Dill said.
“He indicated that it was a kind of identity for him and he had been carrying a gun on his hip since he returned from Vietnam in 1969,” Dill said.
Defense attorney Christiansen said the attempted murder charge that pertains to Barber should be dropped because Moreau did not pursue Barber into the bar after he fled.
“Moreau did not chase him into the restaurant and continue shooting at him,” Christiansen said.
The menacing count that pertains to Corr should not be bound over because Moreau did not threaten Corr, Christiansen said.
Neither should the second-degree assault charge, which pertains to Center, because the evidence is based on hearsay, Christiansen said.
Sullivan will announce her decision at 1:30 p.m. today.