by Mike Donoghue, Vermont News First
MIDDLEBURY — A 14-year-old Burlington boy has pleaded not guilty in Vermont Superior Court to adult criminal charges in connection with the fatal shooting of a Chittenden County teen in a car outside a Bristol home on Monday night.
Hussein S. Mohamed of 61 North Champlain Street denied a felony charge of second-degree murder of Madden Gouveia, 16, of Shelburne during the hearing Tuesday afternoon. Mohamed also denied charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault by waving around a loaded handgun with three other teens with him in the car.
After the state withdrew a request Wednesday morning to hold Mohamed without bail, Judge David Fenster agreed to allow the teen to live with his parents with strict conditions, including a 24-hour curfew. He can only leave home for school, therapy sessions, medical appointments and court hearings.
The defendant’s father, Sharif Hassan, said he and his wife, Hawa Ali, who speak Somali and required court translators, understood that they have to call police if their son violates any of the conditions. Mohamed was ordered to remain away from members of Gouveia’s family and to have no contact with the other two teens that were in the car.
Fenster also told Mohamed that he also must follow any Family Court orders. Many Family Court hearings are confidential, so it is unclear what legal issues Mohamed is facing there. Deputy State’s Attorney Lucas Collins, who handles juvenile cases in Chittenden County, was among those monitoring the Addison court hearing.
State police were able to make an arrest despite at least two eyewitnesses from the car providing multiple false statements about the crime, including a claim it was a drive-by shooting as the four teens sat in a car at 120 North Street near Plank Road about 7:20 p.m., court records show.
State and Bristol Police were able to disprove the lies by the witnesses that were attempting to deflect the attention away from Mohamed, the gunman, court records show.
State police recovered a black 9-mm Smith & Wesson handgun outside the residence Tuesday and a loaded magazine in the bedroom of the juvenile shooter identified as “L.L.,” who lived at the apartment, state police said.
It was unclear where the gun came from, but one version said Gouveia had it in the car. One teen from the car said he thought the firearm was stolen, police said.
Addison County State’s Attorney Eva Vekos filed the charges in adult court, but the defense objected to the court proceedings being held in public. The defense maintained some background information about Mohamed’s past legal issues might be confidential because it involved the Department for Children and Families.
Several media groups, including the Vermont Press Association objected to the proposed court closing based on First Amendment grounds and past Vermont Supreme Court decisions dealing with transparency. Judge David Fenster questioned if there was any legal basis for excluding the public from the courtroom.
After a short recess and hearing from First Amendment lawyer Matthew Byrne, Fenster kept the hearing open.
The hearing continued for a short time before Fenster agreed about 4:15 p.m. to recess it until 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. He ordered Mohamed, dressed in a red prison jumpsuit, detained overnight. The Addison County Sheriff’s Department took him to the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland.
Vermont allows juveniles as young as 10 years-old to be charged with certain violent crimes in adult court.
Vermont juvenile laws were changed in 1981 after more than 30,000 residents petitioned for a special summer session of the legislature to help hold youthful offenders accountable for serious crimes. It followed the May 1981 rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl in Essex Junction and the rape and attempted murder of her classmate. One 16-year-old suspect was convicted and sentenced to life in an adult prison, while his 15½ year-old companion could only be detained in juvenile custody until he was 18. That outraged Vermonters.
The amended Vermont law allows for dangerous criminals as young as 10 years-old to be charged in adult court for a dozen serious crimes, including murder, manslaughter, arson with death resulting, burglary into an occupied dwelling, maiming and various kinds of sexual assaults, kidnappings, and aggravated assaults, including with robbery or a weapon.
The unusual teen arraignment attracted considerable attention in the courtroom and over video from the general public, the press and law enforcement, including the Chittenden County Gun Violence Task Force.
Mohamed was in possession of the black 9-mm Smith & Wesson handgun while sitting in the rear passenger-side seat of a parked vehicle when the firearm discharged, state police said. The bullet struck Gouveia in the back as he sat in the front right passenger seat, Detective Sgt. Seth Richardson of the Major Crime Unit reported. Mohamed was directly behind him.
A woman who lived nearby first offered cardiopulmonary resuscitation to Gouveia, who was later treated at the scene by Bristol Rescue before he was rushed to the UVM Medical Center in Burlington, officials said.
A spokesman told Vermont News First shortly before 10 p.m. that best medical efforts were unable to save Gouveia and he died about 9:08 p.m.
Richardson said the victim and the defendant arrived in Bristol in a car driven by Mason Bullock, 18, and they texted a resident of the apartment house that they were parked in front of his home. The youth, identified only as “L.L.” joined the other 3 in the car.
Bristol Police Officer Francis Smith said Bullock claimed the shooter got out of a car and fired a shot through the right rear window striking the juvenile victim, Richardson said. Smith checked the sedan and found the right rear window closed and intact.
The juvenile from Bristol “L.L.” also gave an identical story to Smith and that the shooter fled the scene in a car, court records show. Smith then spotted Mohamed come out of the apartment at 120 North Street, police said. “L.L.” initially maintained Mohamed was in the apartment when the shooting happened.
“L.L.,” accompanied by his mother, Alicha Lussier, eventually provided a more detailed statement at the state police barracks in New Haven that appeared closer to the evidence and truth, police said. He said after the shooting he ran inside his home and told his mother’s boyfriend, Mel Kirkland, that Gouveia had been shot, Richardson said.
“L.L.” told police he put the gun magazine under his bed as he panicked, Richardson said. “L.L.” also claimed Bullock dropped the gun by a nearby dumpster.
Detective Sgt. Samuel Truex got written consent from Alicha Lussier to search their home on Tuesday and he found the magazine with cartridges in the juvenile’s bedroom, police said. Detective Trooper Joshua Gurwicz later found the firearm outside the residence.
State Trooper Brandon Slaney, who was at the scene, observed a sedan parked in the driveway and it appeared to have a “small cylindrical defect located on the backrest of the front passenger seat,” Richardson wrote. The car is owned by Bullock, police said.
Bullock, who had tried to protect Mohamed from the police, eventually reported the suspect said “I didn’t mean to shoot you” after Gouveia told his carmates he had been shot, Richardson wrote.
Bullock said “L.L.” ran inside his apartment, but came back out as Bristol Police arrived and told people to say the shooting was a drive-by, Richardson wrote.
Bristol Police Chief Bruce Nason said he asked Vermont State Police to take the lead in the investigation due to their vast resources, including a crime scene search team and trained homicide investigators. Bristol Police, which has three full-time officers and a few part-timers, assisted.
An autopsy was planned for Tuesday by the office of Vermont’s Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington, but the results were not disclosed.
The victim’s sister, Nicole Worthen, has started a GoFundMe page in an effort to help Gouveia’s father and stepmother, Ricky and Kelly, bury the teen. More than $5,500 had been raised toward a goal of $10,000 as of late Tuesday night. Worthen wrote it was the second tragedy in 3 years for the family. Gouveia’s brother had died in an accident in 2020, she wrote.
The Bristol homicide is unrelated to any of the 7 other reported homicides in Vermont this month, state police said. The 8 all appear unrelated and 6 of the cases remain unsolved, police said.
There are persons of interest in at least 3 of the 6 unsolved deaths, according to investigators.