Man with mental health history sentenced to more than 2 decades in wife’s slaying with meat cleaver
Dec 21, 2023, 9:48 AM
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont man with a history of mental health issues who was convicted of killing his wife with a meat cleaver and injuring his mother-in-law will serve at least 27 years in prison.
“It was an accident,” Aita Gurung said during his two-day sentencing hearing, which concluded Wednesday. “My mind was not working.”
A jury convicted Gurung last year of killing his wife, Yogeswari Khadka, 32, in Burlington, and attempted second-degree murder in the attack on his mother-in-law, hours after he had sought mental health treatment at a local hospital.
The attacks happened in 2017 and he was charged. But the charges were dropped in 2019 by the county prosecutor, who said evidence showed Gurung was legally insane at the time. Then-Attorney General T.J. Donovan refiled the charges months later after Republican Gov. Phil Scott asked him to review the case. Donovan said he wanted to restore public trust and that the issue of insanity should be decided by a jury.
Gurung’s mother-in-law, Tulasa Rimal, testified via video during the hearing. “No matter what, he should get the harshest punishment,” Rimal, speaking Nepali, said through a translator.
Judge John Pacht said, “We have rage and serious mental health issues going on,” adding, “We know that they can be compatible and we know that they are both present in this case.”
Pacht also pointed out Gurung’s history of domestic violence.
“We are grateful that Tulasa and members of her family were able to share with the court the impact that these tragic acts of domestic violence had and continue to have on their lives,” Attorney General Charity Clark said in a statement Wednesday.
Gurung’s attorney, Sandra Lee, said her client “appreciates the court considering his mental health issues and recognizes the horrific nature of his offenses and he accepts the judge’s sentence.”
Gurung’s total sentence was 35 years to life, with part of the time suspended. He would be eligible for release on probation once he serves his term.