In exchange for each woman’s guilty plea, the Franklin County State’s Attorney’s Office agreed to ask for a prison sentence of no more than 20 years to life. The defendants, however, are free to argue for any legal sentence — including the suspension of any portion of their prison term.
Erika Guttilla is accused of shooting Ford in the head while he was sleeping at her family’s home in Highgate after a night of drinking in late2017. She was originally charged with first-degree murder, punishable by 35 years to life in prison.
Carmen Guttilla is accused of helping her daughter wrap Ford’s body in a carpet and place it in a garbage container, which sat on the back porch of the home for several weeks. She was initially charged with aiding in the commission of first-degree murder, which also carries a potential prison sentence of 35 years to life.
According to police affidavits filed with the court, the Guttillas decided Ford had “to go” because of his alleged abusive behavior toward Erika as well as other family members to whom he also reportedly supplied heroin and cocaine. These allegations against Ford have not been corroborated.
Eventually, investigators said, Ford’s body was moved to a wooded area in Highgate where it was discovered by a couple of people on a walk.
Erika and Carmen Guttilla signed plea agreements in mid-December, about a month after they told the court that plea negotiations had stalled and that they had decided to go to trial in 2022.
They are scheduled for hearings on the plea change and sentencing at the state criminal court in St. Albans on March 10 and 11.
Carmen Guttilla’s attorney, David Sleigh, said the defendants will be presenting testimony from various witnesses, including experts.
“Unlike some sentencing where there isn’t really a lot of factual information presented, there’ll be a lot in this case,” Sleigh said.
When asked what led to his client’s plea agreement after nearly four years of prosecution, Sleigh said he wanted to wait until after the sentencing to discuss it.
Deputy State’s Attorney John Lavoie, a prosecutor in the case, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Corey Cassani, Erika Guttilla’s boyfriend at the time of her arrest, earlier reached a plea deal with prosecutors. He was sentenced in November 2019 to three to seven years in prison on a felony charge of being an accessory after the fact, plus three misdemeanor counts of violating the conditions of his release in earlier cases.
The Guttillas are being held without bail at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, the state’s lone women’s detention facility, in South Burlington.
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