With jury selected, Moreau murder trial begins
Vail, CO Colorado
GEORGETOWN, Colorado – Two years, two months and 28 days after shootings at the Sandbar in West Vail left one person dead and three others injured, accused shooter Richard “Rossi” Moreau is on trial in Clear Creek County.
Tuesday began as the second day of the juror voir dire process in the Clear Creek County courthouse in Georgetown. By 11 a.m., the attorneys for both sides had selected the 12-member jury plus two alternates – 10 men and four women.
District Court Judge R. Thomas Moorhead told them not to read anything about the case, research the case in any way, talk to anyone about the case or consult any materials of any kind about the case throughout the duration of the trial, which is scheduled through March 16.
After an hour-and-a-half lunch break, the trial got under way just before 1 p.m. Moreau is charged with eight felonies, including first-degree murder, for the Nov. 7, 2009, shooting. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Mallory, who is prosecuting the case along with District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, began the trial with opening statements on behalf of the people.
He told jurors they would see video of the defendant during the shooting, which he said would prove Moreau’s guilt.
“The calculating firing of shots – you will see him not point everywhere, but deliberately shooting at people,” Mallory said.
His statements were short and to the point – Moreau should be convicted because of the evidence that will be shown, Mallory said. He spoke for about 10 minutes, but could have used up an hour.
The defense strategy for opening statements was to paint a picture of Moreau as a victim – a victim of the Vietnam War and the mental illness that resulted from it.
Public defender Reed Owens called the night of Nov. 7, 2009, “a perfect storm.” He pointed to three elements that created that perfect storm: Environmental, post-traumatic stress disorder and medication.
Owens didn’t dispute that Moreau is the man who shot four people that night, killing Dr. Gary Kitching, of Carbondale. He disputed that the case is solely about the shooting, however.
“This case is about mental health and mental illness,” Owens said. “It’s about what’s going on inside a person’s head.”
Owens then presented a famous Winston Churchill quote: “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you will see.”
The case, according to the defense, is about why Moreau did it.
The first witness the prosecution called to the stand was Lani Kitching, the widow of the victim who died in the shooting. She’s petite, and wore a while turtleneck under a dark pants suit.
Hurlbert asked her questions about her marriage to Kitching. They had been married 30 years and had three children. They had moved to Carbondale full time in 2007, but had been part-time residents there for over a decade.
Hurlbert introduced some photographs as evidence. One showed Kitching on a hike, smiling, on what appeared to be the summit of a large mountain. Then he showed the jury a photograph of the Kitchings together – Lani Kitching informed them it was taken on the summit of Mount Sopris, south of Carbondale.
Another photo showed Kitching on a ladder at the Kitchings’ Carbondale home. He was hammering nails, Lani Kitching said.
“That (picture) was taken the morning (of the day) he was killed,” she said.
Lani Kitching was soft spoken on the witness stand. She remained calm and didn’t show a lot of emotion, but embraced a friend or family member in the audience after her testimony with a long, very emotional hug.
Hurlbert had asked her about the events of Nov. 7, 2009. She said she and her husband decided to drive to Vail to watch the University of Southern California football game on TV. The Sandbar had good TVs and would be able to broadcast a better picture of the game than they could get at their home.
So they made the hour drive, she said, and arrived around 6:30 p.m. They scouted a good place to sit to watch the game, and found a nice spot on a sofa in front of a television, kind of in an enclave.
Lani Kitching said they ate some nachos and watched the game, but decided to leave at halftime because the game wasn’t very exciting, she said.
Her husband went out to the car to make sure they could pick up the game on satellite radio for the drive home, and around that time is when Lani Kitching said she heard an altercation break out inside the bar. Then she heard “what sounded like gun shots,” she said.
She ducked between the sofa she was sitting on and the table in front of it. She said she remained hiding there for what felt like 15-20 minutes.
When officers came into the Sandbar – more than 20 minutes after Moreau shot Gary Kitching – they escorted her out from her hiding place. She had been less than 10 feet away from where her husband was killed.
“When I was walking away, I saw my husband on the ground,” Lani Kitching said. “I knew he was gone, I knew he was dead. His eyes were lifeless. He wasn’t moving.”
Owens asked just two questions during cross examination: Could the amount of time she said she was in hiding possibly have been longer – she said no – and did she or her husband ever interact with Moreau at all that night prior to the shootings, to which she also said no.
Jurors knew they would be seeing a video of the shooting, which the prosecution admitted as evidence along with calling forensic scientist Jeff Marmaro, who works in digital forensics at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Marmaro, through direction from the Vail Police Department, put together two video sequences from the surveillance cameras in the Sandbar to show the events as they took place. One video showed all 16 cameras simultaneously in one picture, and another video took the video images from just the nine cameras that captured the events of that night and showed those images in sequence.
The prosecution called Vail Police Officer Justin Dill, who was the lead investigator on the Sandbar shooting case, to the stand.
Dill was able to point and identify various things in the video, including the locations within the Sandbar that the video shows, as well as the defendant and several victims.
He pointsedto Gary Kitching, who appears lifeless in the video lying on the floor, and points to Moreau, sitting across from him after having shot him.
He later pointed to Lani Kitching as she walks out of the bar.
Under cross examination, Owens pointed out several times that Moreau doesn’t chase anyone outside of the bar, noting that several people could be seen running toward various exit doors.
The jurors watched the video intently. They were focused on it, as were all of the attorneys, the judge, Dill, the court reporter and members of the court audience. Lani Kitching left the courtroom while the video was shown.
The video, which does not contain any audio, shows the sequence of events from various camera angles. Moreau socializes with other bar patrons, then the bar manager comes over and appears to talk to Moreau before several other people, both patrons and employees, appear to help physically remove Moreau from the bar.
Moreau falls twice near the exit door, and five or six people help pick him up and continue to remove him from the bar. They make it outside and then all appear to quickly run back inside. The video then shows Moreau entering the bar with a pistol in hand, pointing and shooting.
There are two points in the video where you can clearly see Moreau shoot two separate victims, which Dill identified as Jim Lindley and Gary Kitching, although the video isn’t clear enough to show their faces. Both the defense and prosecution identify Moreau as the shooter.
The prosecution will call Sandbar manager Jason Barber to the stand today for day two of testimony. The trial is scheduled to continue from 9 a.m. to noon today, resuming again at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.