EDITOR’S NOTE: This article contains language that may not be suitable for all readers, d
ST. ALBANS: The defense team for Ethan Gratton, 28, of Georgia began presenting their case to the jury this morning with five witnesses, four of which characterized one victim in the shooting as a volatile person with a temper.
David Hill, the logger who was shot and killed by Ethan Gratton on January 2, 2017, had a reputation for being explosive with his anger, according to defense attorney Kelly Green.
Green called to the stand four local men who previously had negative experiences with Hill. All four characterized him to have a short-tempered fuse, and all four shared personal experiences with him.
The owner of Georgia Auto Parts, Vinny Gaudette, told about his experience just weeks before Hill was shot dead on Georgia Mountain Road, as he teared up from his own story.
“I knew him for more than 30 years,” Gaudette said of Hill, who he described as a good friend until the incident he was recalling. “He charged in (to the store) and came right at me yelling ‘You mother f**ker Gaudette, I’m going to kick your mother f**king ass if you don’t stop running your mouth.’”
Gaudette said he hadn’t been talking badly about Hill and tried to tell him that but the incident only worsened, “I was going to take him down with brake cleaner.”
The store owner said he had two cans of brake cleaner in his hands when the man charged at him, and he considered defending himself by spraying the caustic fluid in Hill’s face if he charged at him again.
“I knew if it happened again, I was going to go to my truck, get my rifle and use it if I had to,” Gaudette described for the jury. “And then it would be me over in that chair, on trial.”
The testimony was certainly emotional for Gaudette, who said he spent much of the next two weeks between the incident and when Hill was shot avoiding areas that he might run into the man- in fear of his own safety.
Gaudette certainly was not the only person that characterized Hill that way. A man who hired Hill to do logging on his land testified that he had to use a large screwdriver one time to defend himself from the 300lb, 6-foot tall logger.
Allen Simoneau told the jury he was fearful of his life when Hill came into this garage the day he was leaving the logging site. Simoneau said, as a former Marine, he’d seen combat and what he saw with Hill made him fearful of his safety.
An incident six months before Hill’s death came to light with the testimony of a Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy- Kevin Bushey.
Bushey testified that he was called to Hill’s Fairfax home in July of 2016 for a noise complaint but instead of Hill turning down the music, he began fighting with the officer- while handcuffed.
Bushey said he was forced to deploy his pepper spray to help subdue the man, who was eventually charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Aaron Rivers, a former logger who worked with Hill for a few months, said he was only on the witness stand because he had been subpoenaed to testify.
Rivers described a trying time with Hill, and testified that Hill had a motto for working, “Fuck ‘em, we work.”
That motto for his work life may have played into Hill’s death, according to Rivers, who testified that when he heard that a logger was shot, he immediately thought of Hill.
When asked why, Rivers replied, “For those of us who knew (Hill), it wasn’t a big surprise.”
The last witness called Tuesday morning, Kevin Harrison, had little to say, except that he had come upon Ethan Gratton and his father minutes after the incident happened.
“He looked scared. He was white and shaking,” Harrison said as he described Ethan’s demeanor moments after the shooting.
The defense is expected to call expert witnesses to the stand Tuesday afternoon, including a blood spatter expert that will better be able to explain the forensics that was discovered at the scene.
Follow the County Courier in print and online to stay up to date on the intricacies of the Gratton trial.