Vail shooting suspect’s military history at issue in court
December 2, 2009
EAGLE, Colo. – Attorneys are squaring off over the military records of murder suspect Richard “Rossi” Moreau.
Moreau, who has said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his military service, did not speak to the court during a 10-minute advisement hearing before County Court Judge Katharine T. Sullivan on Tuesday in Eagle.
Prosecutors say Moreau has claimed he shot four people at the Sandbar as a result of the disorder, according to court documents.
Moreau, 63, of Vail, is charged with first-degree murder in Nov. 7 shooting of Carbondale physician Gary Bruce Kitching at the Sandbar in West Vail. Moreau also faces seven other felony charges, including attempted murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault and menacing.
Prosecutors subpoenaed Moreau’s military records Nov. 10, including dates and locations of service, occupational status, active duty, combat duty and any clinical treatments related to Army service.
The defense moved to quash that subpoena three days later, saying prosecutors were conducting a “fishing expedition.”
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The subpoena of Moreau’s records will be addressed at the next hearing in the case, which is scheduled for Dec. 15.
Public defender Dana Christiansen said in a court filing that the military records are protected under the U.S. Constitution and Colorado law.
“Mr. Moreau holds that there is no probable cause for the issuance of these records,” according to the motion. “Mr. Moreau is not on active duty, nor on military reserve. He last served in the military almost four decades ago. Therefore, there is no probable cause to request these records.
Moreau’s records are relevant because he says he shot four people as a resort of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his military service, prosecutors said in court documents.
“His actual military records are essential to uncovering if any claimed traumatic events occurred,” prosecutors said in a court filing.
Moreau also says his actions may have been related to a stroke or seizure, according to prosecutors.
“Therefore, he has impliedly waived any privilege that may have attached by asserting his mental and physical state had played a part in his shooting four people,” according to a document filed by Assistant District Attorney Steven Mallory.
Moreau’s records were subpoenaed from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, a division of the National Archives.
Some have cast doubt on Moreau’s claims of military service.
Moreau told the Vail Daily in 2006 that he was an Army Ranger who served two tours of duty, in 1968 and 1969, in Vietnam. He has also said that he served with the 1st Cavalry Division and Army Security Agency.
Mary Schantag, a researcher with the POW Network, a group that researches military records of veterans, said the group’s database shows Moreau was a radio teletype operator who served about 48 months in the Army and was discharged as a corporal. The database does not show Moreau had Army Ranger training, Schantag said. The group’s database contains 60,000 archived historical records, she said.
Moreau said that he held a dying friend in his arms during combat.
“He called for his mom,” Moreau said then. “I watched him die in my arms. It’s really hard watching someone die in your arms. All you can do is watch them die.”
Schantag said she doubted the story.
“I found that hard to believe as a radio teletype operator,” Schantag said. “He wasn’t a grunt – a machine gunner, an ammo bearer. Those are the guys who are going to be up front.”
Moreau said in 2006 that he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since 1979 and takes medicine every day to treat the disorder.
Tuesday’s hearing served to advise Moreau of the charges against him, but Public Defender Reed Owens waived the advisement. Moreau, who is being held without bond at the Eagle County Jail, appeared in orange prison garb, without the cast on his arm that he wore at his Nov. 9 hearing.
A preliminary hearing in the case was set for Dec. 30. If Sullivan finds probable cause during that hearing, the case will be bound over to the courtroom of District Court Judge Thomas Moorhead.
Some 1,200 pages of records, as well as CDs containing hours of interviews of Moreau and other recordings such as phone messages, have already been turned over to Moreau’s defense attorneys, Mallory said Tuesday.
Owens declined to comment on the case after the hearing Tuesday.
Jim Lindley, the 63-year-old Vail resident who was shot four times and critically injured in the Sandbar shooting, was upgraded to fair condition at a Denver hospital Friday, town of Vail officials said.