By Guy Page
The transgender victim of a Morristown murder last week was involved in a violent incident on March 3, 2021, according to Morristown Police Department records.
Last week, Fern Feather, also known as Zachary Barbeau, 29, of Hinesburg, died after Seth Brunell, 43, a transient, knifed him in the chest Tuesday April 12 during an encounter in a parked car in the rural Cadys Falls area of Morristown. Brunell has been charged with second-degree murder. He claims the knifing was a response to aggressive sexual advances by Feather.
The case has become a ‘cause celebre’ on social media, with Progressive House members likening the killing to GOP support of H659, a bill allowing youth of any age to take puberty blocking and gender-transforming drugs without parental consent.
It is unclear from the March 12 police report by Morristown Police Dept. Officer Peter Hughes who was the aggressor in what transpired at the Sunset Motor Inn on Rte. 15 in Morristown on March 4 – Feather, or Zane Davison of Hardwick.
Davison is a 2012 graduate of Hazen High School, where he played varsity baseball and basketball. In July, 2021 he appeared in court because in June he had allegedly ripped a clock off the wall of his room at the Hardwick Inn a month earlier and thrown it into the Lamoille River because he was drunk and mad at his parents, he testified in court, according to the Caledonian-Record.
The March 3, 2021 account begins when Lamoille Dispatch worker Seth Costa received a 911 hangup call from the Sunset Motor Inn office. According to records provided to Vermont Daily Chronicle by Morristown PD, Ofc. Hughes drove to the scene and was waved down by a guest on the second floor – Davison, who had “what appeared to be blood on his hands and on the left side of his face.” Davison said he had been assaulted by Feather, who he’d met on Facebook.
Davison had recently been kicked out of the warming shelter at Hyde Park, and said he “thought Fern was a friend and that he would help him figure out where to go next,” Hughes reports. “Davison said they had been drinking and Fern was trying to get Davison to provide him sexual favors. Davison said he refused and Fern then assaulted him” with a small crow bar, striking him on his head. Hughes noted his earring had been partially ripped out, and that Davison refused transport and treatment for the injury.
Hughes said that while he was speaking with Davison, the motel manager Sherri Guyette showed up and told Davison to leave because he’d violated his contract by having a visitor. Guyette then received a phone call – it was Fern Feather, ready to give the other side of the story, which is that they were hanging out, things were fine until Davison grabbed Fern Feather by the throat, attempting strangulation. Feather was able to get Davison off by punching him in the side of the head with keys, and then fleeing the room and the hotel premises. “Fern said he called because he wanted someone to watch Davison, as he was dangerous,” but did not want to meet with Hughes to complete a written statement.
Clearly either Davison or Fern Feather isn’t telling the whole truth. What isn’t clear is what role, if any, the violent event from a year earlier played in Brunell’s alleged decision to stick the knife into Fern Feather’s chest last Tuesday.