Kory Lee George

Kory Lee George

The stepson of a man intentionally gunned down in a remote section of Hinesburg nine weeks ago will remain behind bars while awaiting trial in federal court for illegal possession of firearms charges – including the gun used in the homicide.

Kory Lee George, 31, of Monkton, a five-time convicted felon, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court on Friday to two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms.

The guns include possession of a stolen 9-mm Beretta used to kill his stepfather David C. Auclair, 45, of Williston at the LaPlatte Headwaters Town Forest trailhead parking lot off Gilman Road in Hinesburg on July 11, Vermont State Police said.

The night before the killing, Auclair and his estranged wife, Angela, went out to eat with a friend, James Synott from Colchester, police said. While they were dining, George broke into Synott’s empty home to steal several guns, including the Beretta used to shoot his stepfather nine times the following night, court records show.

The Vermont Crime Lab has certified the slugs taken from Auclair’s body matched those test-fired from the recovered stolen Beretta, records show.

A complicated family

George’s arrest is the first break in the fatal shooting of Auclair, who was in a strained marital relationship and part of a contentious family connection, records show. The Auclairs maintained separate bedrooms before his death and Angela Auclair had a romantic interest in a boyfriend, John Turner, who would frequent the couple’s home, police said.

Five South Burlington Police officers had to respond to a report of a family fight following the Funeral Mass for David Auclair at St. John Vianney Catholic Church on July 20, Chief Shawn Burke said.

Williston Police and University of Vermont Police also both sent two additional officers to stand by as backup during the burial that followed at Resurrection Park Cemetery on Hinesburg Road, records show.

Hinesburg Community Police also got a report there might be further trouble later at the homicide site after the funeral, but it never materialized, Chief Anthony Cambridge said.

State police say they believe Auclair was lured to the remote Hinesburg spot through a cellphone purchased – possibly by George or an associate – at the Rite Aid in Milton the day of the shooting. Auclair received a call from the cellphone at 9:15 pm. and a half hour later police received a report about multiple shots fired on Gilman Road.

Responding police said Auclair’s head and torso were found under his gray 2017 GMC pickup truck in the parking lot in Hinesburg. He had grease on his hands and it appeared Auclair tried to crawl under his truck to get away from the shooter, state police said.

No charges have been filed for the actual killing.

New search warrant

The criminal investigation is expanding into reports George was involved in the illicit drug sale of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products both in and outside Chittenden County, court records show.

The drug trafficking claim is in a court affidavit seeking a federal search warrant for a 2011 black Harley Davidson motorcycle with George and his mother Angela Auclair listed as the owners, records show.

David Auclair was the legal owner of the motorcycle, but sometime in August ownership changed to Mrs. Auclair and George, according to a sworn affidavit by Special Agent Benjamin I. Cohen of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

During interviews with Detective Trooper Patrick Slaney on July 12 and 17, “George indicated he used and sold THC products, and had been involved in the sale of vape cartridges containing THC oil,” Cohen wrote.

When George was arrested Sept. 4, he asked police to retrieve his wallet and sneakers from the right side saddle bag on the motorcycle, Cohen said. George did not allow a consent search.

The motorcycle was towed to the state police barracks in Williston. The following day, State Trooper Crista Maurice and her drug dog “Cole” went into the garage and the state-certified K9 immediately alerted to the odor of illegal drugs and sat down by the motorcycle, Cohen said.

Cohen, in seeking the search warrant, noted some firearms that George reportedly stole from a Colchester home have not been recovered and could be stashed in the saddle bags or storage compartments on the motorcycle.

Court hearing

Federal Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy ordered George jailed Friday afternoon as both a danger to the community and a risk to flee. George had been held since his arrest in mid-week. 

Conroy said he also was concerned that since the Auclair homicide, the level of alcohol abuse by George had increased to the point he was blacking out. The Federal Pretrial Services Office said drug testing also determined George had marijuana in his system following his arrest, Conroy stated.

Conroy noted besides George’s criminal record in Vermont, he also has a conviction in Massachusetts for unlawful possession of a firearm in 2016.

Prosecutors supported the recommendation of the Pretrial Services Office that George be detained pending trial.

“It’s a murder weapon,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Spencer Willig said about the one of the guns he is charged with possessing. He noted other stolen firearms are missing.

Chief Federal Public Defender Michael L. Desautels made a detailed argument that the pending case was only a felon in possession of firearms and should not be confused with the unsolved homicide. He said the government had provided no evidence of George’s fingerprints or DNA being on the handgun.

Desautels also maintained he thought there were conditions that would make George available for trial, including electronic monitoring. He argued some of the failures to show for past court hearings by George were apparently due in part to him being in prison on other criminal cases.

Conroy was not buying.

He said George, who reported he has been working for Farrell Distributing in South Burlington, needed to be jailed for the safety of the community and to be available for trial.

The veteran judge ruled the weight of the evidence against George appeared strong. He said George has a significant criminal history, including crimes when he was on probation or parole.

George was on parole at the times of both new charges, officials said. Conroy noted a state detainer had been placed against George by Vermont Parole officials.

He also cited George has a history of violence or the use of weapons and a history of alcohol and substance abuse.

Conroy also noted George’s record of failing to appear in court as required, past attempts to evade law enforcement and violations of parole or probation conditions.

Conroy did agree to a request by Desautels for 90 days to obtain the forensic reports, investigate the case, check George’s past criminal convictions and to file pretrial motions. Conroy gave a Dec. 5 deadline and said the case would be passed to Judge Christina Reiss in Burlington.

The shotgun and the wedding

Conroy noted between George’s brief initial court appearance for a criminal complaint Wednesday afternoon and his detention hearing on Friday afternoon, a federal grand jury in Burlington had returned a two-count indictment. The indictment eliminated any right George had for a hearing on whether there was probable cause for his arrest.

The second felony count maintains George possessed a 12-gauge shotgun stolen during a burglary at a hunting camp owned by a friend in Childwold, N.Y., in upstate New York in early 2019.

Several guns and ammunition were stolen from the St. Lawrence County camp, police said. The camp owners reported George had visited the property before the burglary, Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. James Vooris said.

The stolen shotgun was recovered Aug. 2 during a court-ordered search at a mobile home shared by George and his girlfriend Kirstin Stillwell, 18, and parked in the driveway of 116 Cattail Lane in Monkton, police said.

Desautels, the public defender, told the court his client is now married.

Stillwell, the teenager, sat with an older woman a few rows behind the defense table during both court hearings. George mouthed the words, “I Love You” in her direction both days after being led into court in handcuffs by federal marshals.

George and Stillwell got married about two weeks ago, according to postings on Facebook. Where and who performed the ceremony were not listed. One family member told this newspaper it was unclear how Stillwell and George became connected.

Layered tapestry

George’s criminal record includes felony convictions for escape in December 2017, assault and robbery with a weapon in October 2008, grand larceny in October 2008, burglary into an occupied dwelling in December 2007 and burglary in December 2007, records show.

Police have been fairly closed-mouthed since the Auclair homicide and did not make the routine request in major cases seeking witnesses or help from the public. That silence is traditionally an indication the police have a suspect or suspects in a case and are focusing on them.

George and others were on the police radar in the days following the homicide, court records show. 

Willig said the gun case is “a layered tapestry.” He said investigators have collected a lot of evidence to allow the prosecution to put together the two gun charges. Meanwhile, the homicide investigation continues.

“Evidence relating to the shooting, meanwhile, indicates that the murder of the defendant’s stepfather was carefully planned and executed,” Willig wrote in his request seeking detention.

“The victim was apparently lured via a call from a prepaid cell phone to an isolated trailhead late in the evening,” he wrote.

The shooter left no casings behind at the crime scene.

Prosecutors have said three guns, including the Beretta, were stolen from a Colchester residence, but two remain missing. A second 9-mm Beretta and a Llama .380 caliber pistol, along with loaded magazine have disappeared, records show.

Those missing handguns provide an increased risk to the community if the defendant were released, wrote Willig, who is prosecuting the case with veteran Assistant U.S. Attorney William Darrow.

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