Guilty plea in execution homicide; son to testify against mom next month.
by Mike Donoghue, News Correspondent
BURLINGTON — The planned joint trial of a former Williston woman and her son on murder charges for killing her husband during a nighttime ambush in Hinesburg four years ago has taken an unusual twist when Korey Lee George pleaded guilty and said his mother pulled the trigger.
George, 35, struck a plea deal that is expected to get him a prison term of 18 years to life for pleading guilty to conspiring with his mother, Angela M. Auclair, to kill her husband David Auclair, 45, of Williston at a rural parking area off Gilman Road in Hinesburg on July 11, 2019.
George is expected to be a key witness against his mother when she goes on trial in October.
Deputy State’s Attorney Susan G. Hardin outlined in Vermont Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon the basis for the charge of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Hardin said George conspired with his mother, Angela Auclair, now 50, to kill her estranged husband by firing 11 gunshots into him as he tried to crawl under a truck to get away from the attack.
It marked the first time in either state court or federal court — where George also was prosecuted as a five-time felon in possession of a firearm — that Angela Auclair has been publicly identified as the trigger person. The investigation had pointed to George as the apparent shooter after stealing firearms from a Colchester home to carry out the plan. There was some belief his mother was home at the time of the shooting, records show.
David Auclair’s bullet-riddled body was part of an execution-styled homicide orchestrated by his estranged wife, Angela, – who also is George’s mother, Vermont State Police and prosecutors have said. She had a boyfriend that she often invited over to the couple’s house on Vermont 116 in Williston, records show.
George bought a pre-paid burner cellphone in Milton that was used to make two phone calls, including a late-night call that lured Auclair to the LaPlatte Headwaters Town Forest trailhead parking lot in Hinesburg, state police said. No shell casings were left behind from the shooting, police said.
Also for the first time in public, Hardin said officials have been told three vehicles were at the shooting scene. David Auclair, who was found dead under his 2017 GMC pickup, George, who lured him there and the third vehicle is believed to belong to Angela Auclair. Officials had said earlier they thought she was home at the time of the shooting. A passing motorist is among those reporting three vehicles.
A nearby doorbell camera captured the sound of 14 shots. Defense lawyer Daniel M. Sedon on behalf of George said after the hearing the evidence shows only one gun was at the scene.
The change of plea and various new disclosures came during two hours of hearings in the two cases.
Under questioning from Judge Kevin Griffin, George admitted the entire conspiracy scenario outlined by Hardin was true. It included him being at the scene, but his mother doing all the shooting.
Hardin noted the conspiracy by George and his mother stretched over several weeks with major overt acts happening in Williston, Monkton and Colchester.
Griffin also asked George if he understood that the plea agreement requires him to testify truthfully and consistently in all future proceedings, including at his mother’s upcoming trial. George, flanked by Sedon, said he understood. Auclair’s defense lawyer, Rob Sussman and the state plan to take George’s deposition within a week.
As part of the plea agreement eight other criminal charges, including the Colchester home burglary, where handguns were stolen, two counts of obstruction of justice and first-degree murder, will be dismissed at sentencing, Griffin said. Four other counts involve George violating his conditions of release also will be dropped.
If the deal falls through, including George not testifying honestly, all nine charges will proceed, the judge said.
The guilty plea in open court on Tuesday afternoon also means what was believed to be the first joint homicide trial in Vermont history in more than 50 years will now have only one defendant. Co-defendants in homicide trials normally have separate trials if they have not accepted a plea agreement.
Jury selection for Auclair and George had been set for Oct. 2 in Burlington. The court had set up to 5 weeks aside for the double trial at the Edward J. Costello Courthouse. With only one defendant going forward now it is unclear how much time will be cut from the trial.
George will get credit for time served since his arrest on state charges in November 2019. His mother was arrested in December 2019.
He is currently serving more than 8 years for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Federal Judge Christina Reiss sentenced him in November 2021 to 89 months in federal prison. As part of the plea agreement he is serving his federal sentence in a Vermont prison.
In an unusual move, Reiss agreed to a request by Chief Federal Defender Michael Desautels to seal the sentencing memo because it outlined a troubling upbringing for George. The 6-page memo and 2 exhibits outlined physical and mental health issues.
During the homicide investigation, Vermont State Police determined George was in illegal possession of two firearms — the stolen 9-mm Beretta used in the homicide and a stolen 12-gauge shotgun, records show. George was subsequently charged in federal court in a two-count indictment.
George pleaded guilty to possessing the stolen shotgun.
George possessed the stolen shotgun at his home in Monkton where he was living on Aug. 2, 2019. The shotgun was stolen from a camp in St. Lawrence County in upstate New York about April 2019, along with several other firearms, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reported.
George has a lengthy criminal record that includes five felony convictions and that means he is prohibited under federal law from possessing any firearms.
Angela Auclair testifies
Auclair has pleaded not guilty to aiding in first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and obstruction of justice. The obstruction count maintains Auclair instructed at least one witness in the case to lie to investigators for her, police said.
After George changed his plea Tuesday, Auclair had a separate hearing and took the witness stand for about 15 minutes to attack the Vermont State Police investigation.
Auclair believes there was security video from her former home in Williston that would confirm statements that she made about her whereabouts on three straight days, including the night of the homicide.
Auclair maintained the video would show she remained home at times when police have said she was on the move as part of the conspiracy plan.
However on cross examination, Auclair was stumped when Hardin asked her how she could be so sure that the uncollected video equipment owned by her former in-laws had actually captured what she was claiming when she maintains she knew nothing about how the system worked.
State Police Detective Sgt. Ashley “Skip” Barnes testified that investigators conducting a court-ordered search at Auclairs former residence in Williston made a decision not to seize certain electronics. He said the house was vacant and certain monitoring equipment did not have any wires and did not appear to be operable.
Hardin grilled Auclair on why she never told the police that she believed there were videos that would have proven her whereabouts leading up to and including the night of the killing.
“It’s not my job to tell the cops their job,” Auclair told Hardin. The veteran prosecutor pushed back and questioned that she had video recordings, but didn’t share them.
“Yes, mam,” Auclair said.
Auclair said her husband David controlled the video surveillance. She said she had no knowledge on how it worked. “Just what my husband told me.”
Auclair said her husband could be asked. Hardin said he was dead.
Auclair arrived in court with a blue prison t-shirt that said on the back “CRCF cleaner” — apparently from her job at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility.
Auclair remains held without bail at the South Burlington prison.
The Auclairs were in a rocky marriage, the police investigation indicated. The Auclairs maintained separate bedrooms before his death and Mrs. Auclair had a romantic interest in a boyfriend, John Turner, who would visit their home, records show.
Police said the night before the killing Mrs. Auclair and her estranged husband met a mutual friend, James Synott of Colchester at the Lighthouse restaurant for dinner. Meanwhile Turner dropped off Korey Lee George near the dinner guest’s unattended home on Arbor Lane, state police said. Also with them was George’s then girlfriend Kirstin Stillwell, who he later married, police said.
Police say George broke into the Synott home and was seen a few minutes later carrying a bag out of the residence. Synott, a retired airline pilot, returned home after dinner to discover the burglary and reported three guns missing, including the eventual homicide weapon, police said.
Many of the movements of George and Turner, as the driver, were captured on video going to and from the scene, while police also tracked their whereabouts through cell phone locations and text messages, records show.