Winhall murder leads to long jail terms

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BENNINGTON - Family members of a murdered Winhall man expressed deep sadness in Bennington District Court on Friday as the two men who admitted responsibility for his death were sentenced.

Joshua Gould, 29, and Christopher Kosmalski, 29, both of Rutland, changed their pleas to guilty on charges stemming from the 2006 murder of Renato Wieser.

Gould was sentenced to 28 years to life imprisonment on a charge of second-degree murder. The charge was amended down from first-degree murder, and charges of unlawful restraint and grand larceny against him were dismissed.

Kevin Griffin, Gould's attorney, said the deal was proper, given the circumstances.

"It's clear he understands what he's done, and he's ready to accept full responsibility for his actions," Griffin said. "There's no guarantee that he will ever be let out, and he's extremely realistic about that."

Griffin said he was pleased the murder charge had been amended down, saying he expected the charge itself would have been a major point of contention at trial.

Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage described the crime as a senseless act of violence.

Wieser's brother, Paulo Wieser, testified at the sentencing hearings for both men. "My brother was a lot like me, but he was different in that he wouldn't hurt a flea," Paulo Wieser said, addressing Gould. "That's what's heartbreaking about this: You completely took over and overpowered someone who would never raise his fist at you."

Wieser said the only way in which Gould was redeemable was the fact that he had taken responsibility for the crime. "The whole ordeal is something that you'll never understand," Wieser said. "I received a call from a complete stranger that day - his first words were 'this is not a joke,' and his next were 'your brother's been murdered.'"

Kelly Wieser, Wieser's sister-in-law, said the family would never completely move on from this loss. She described Wieser as exuberant, charming and charismatic.

Gould apologized to the Wieser family. "I'm truly sorry for what happened," Gould said. "I take full responsibility for this."

Judge John Wesley said the event had shocked him. "I am confronted with utter despair at the senselessness that has come before my courtroom," Wesley said. "I have only had one occasion in which I had to impose a sentence like this, and I was as dumbfounded then as I am now."

Wesley said that although he agreed that support systems had failed Gould, the blame could not be laid at their feet. "Somewhere ... there may lie evil," Wesley said. "Surely, you were consumed by it the moment you committed this crime. Whether or not you ever purge yourself of it, only you may know."

Kosmalski was sentenced to 13 to 32 years on charges of unlawful restraint, being an accessory to a felony after the fact and two counts of grand larceny. A first-degree murder charge was dropped as the result of a plea deal.

Destroyed lives

Kosmalski's attorney, Kerry DeWolfe, said she believed Kosmalski regrets the decisions he made. "Obviously, this is a terrible thing, and it's had a ripple effect that has destroyed lives," DeWolfe said. "I believe (Kosmalski's) remorse is genuine."

Marthage said that although Kosmalski did not actually stab Wieser, he deserved a long sentence. "The defendant made his own choices. He knew what kind of person Joshua Gould was," she said. "The state wholeheartedly rejects the theory that Mr. Kosmalski was somehow coerced into doing this, and that he was fearful of Mr. Gould."

Kosmalski also addressed the court. "I'm not the monster people portray me to be," he said. "Hindsight is 20/20. God knows if I could turn back time, I wouldn't be here today."

Wesley said he spent more time debating whether he should accept this plea agreement than with Gould's, even though Kosmalski did not stab Wieser himself.

"Mr. Gould could quite possibly spent the rest of his life in prison. You have the prospect of being released in a relatively short period of time, given the horror of the crime you've committed," Wesley said. "It's not enough to say hindsight is 20/20. You could have changed many, many other things that could have cured this."

After the hearings, Marthage said she hoped the sentences would give the Wieser family some closure. "Both defendants were made offers, and they both wanted to resolve on the same day," Marthage said.

According to an affidavit by Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Reg Trayah, police were called to Wieser's residence on May 11, 2006, by a family friend. Police found Wieser in the bedroom, tied up and lying in a pool of blood.

It was discovered that Wieser's car, a 2005 Ford Escape, was missing. The car was later found abandoned on a service road in North Carolina.

Law enforcement officials tracked the two to Cocoa Beach, Fla. On May 15, 2006, the two contacted family members and asked them to wire money to Florida.

Gould reportedly said that he stabbed Wieser several times in the back and the neck, because he knew Wieser could identify him. The knife used in the assault, police said, was found about an eighth of a mile from the crime scene.


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