Emily Perkins sentenced for double-shooting
South Royalton mother will be eligible for parole starting at age 55
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - The surviving victim of the double-shooting in a trailer in Bethel where a drug purchase went terribly wrong in November of 2011 stormed out the door of the courtroom Wednesday afternoon as the woman who'd shot her three times in the head turned around from the defense table and began to apologize to the relatives of her victims and several of her own family members who were all on hand for her sentencing.
Emily Perkins, now 30, was sentenced to 26-years to-life for the execution-style killing of drug dealer Scott Hill, who was 48 when he died, and the attempted second-degree murder of Emma Jozefiak who had just turned 19 the day before when she too was shot in the head at close range and left for dead in a pool of her own blood next to Hill's body on the floor of his kitchen until she was discovered days later barely clinging to life.
Jozefiak, who still has one of the three bullets which hit her that day squarely lodged in her brain, said afterwards that there was nothing that she wanted to hear Perkins say so she got out of the courtroom as quickly as she could.
Earlier in the proceeding, Jozefiak, now a bubbly 24-year-old with a perpetually engaging smile, had stood at a podium in the center of the courtroom and carefully read a statement to Judge Theresa DiMauro outlining the struggles she's had over the intervening five years as she went from being an excellent student and a state all-star athlete at South Royalton High School to someone who needed months of therapy to even walk and talk and who to this day is easily overwhelmed and struggles with physical deficients ranging from reduced peripheral vision to numbness in her limbs that makes it impossible for her to play soccer or basketball, sports at which she once excelled.
Shooting survivor Emma Jozefiak testified at Perkins' trial a year ago.
A year ago a Windsor County jury convicted Perkins of voluntary manslaughter for shooting Hill and of attempted second-degree murder for shooting Jozefiak and leaving her for dead. Prior to the start of Wednesday's sentencing hearing the state had already taken the possibility of life-without-parole off the table in exchange for an agreement with Perkins that she would not appeal the outcome of any sentence the judge imposed that had a minimum of between 20 and 30 years behind bars.
Perkins' defense attorney Devlin McLaughlin described his client as a devoted mother to her two young children who had struggled with an addiction to pain killers that both she and her husband, who has since died of a brain tumor, were both taking in November of 2011 at the same time Jozefiak's dependence upon up to ten Percocets a day had driven her to essentially take up residence at Hill's trailer.
McLaughlin also pointed to Perkins' history of cutting and suicide attempts as a teenager and her hospitalization at the Brattleboro Retreat and a group home before she was diagnosed as bipolar and prescribed lithium as factors that put her on a spiraling path that led to the double-shooting. McLaughlin argued that, since Perkins had subsequently kicked her addiction to opiates and gotten back on to her proscribed mental health routine, she had essentially rehabilitated herself to a large degree while awaiting trial.
Windsor County State's Attorney David Cahill countered with a scathing critique of Perkins' actions following the shooting including literally years of deception during which she presented story after story to detectives, first claiming she was not at Hill's residence on the day of the shooting, then saying that Jozefiak had killed Hill, then saying she and Jozefiak had struggled for the gun as stray shots rang out in all directions and finally, after her husband Michael eventually died from his long-running bout with a brain tumor, telling prosecutors that Michael had been the real killer all along and that she had been covering for him so that he could spend the last portion of his life with their young daughters and not behind bars.
Cahill argued that in addition to killing Hill over a bottle of Percocets that she ended up taking after the shooting that Perkins had effectively victimized Jozefiak three separate times, first by repeatedly shooting her in the head, second by leaving her to die a slow death on the kitchen floor, and thirdly by attempting to frame her for murder after she learned that Jozefiak had miraculously survived but did not have any memory of the events due to her traumatic brain injuries.
Picking apart a letter Perkins sent to the court last week from her jail cell in Chittenden County, Cahill pointed to where Perkins had used "passive phrases" like "encountering drugs" and being "swept up into life of secrets and lies" as evidence of what he said was her failure to take responsibility.
"So many lives would be different if opiates had not taken us from ourselves," Cahill quoted Perkins as writing, calling her attitude an insult to the many Vermont residents who have struggled with heroin and other serious addictions in recent years who despite that have not gone out and shot anyone. "She didn't do drugs, drugs did her," Cahill said sarcastically.
"This is not a story about addiction," Cahill argued. "This is a story about evil. There is a ton of good in the world but people do make evil decisions."
"This is what prisons are for," Cahill said of the bloody violence at the center of the case. "This is why we have them. If not for this, then for what?"
Pointing to Perkins' final sentence, "If words could heal I would bleed a million apologies across these pages," Cahill suggested, "The irony of that is this letter contains not one single apology."
Emily Perkins speaks to the victim's families on Wednesday. Valley News pool photo by Jovelle Tamayo
Minutes later Perkins was offered a chance to stand in the courtroom in her blue prison smock with her handcuffs off but her ankles still shackled together to make a statement. As she turned toward the benches with her mother and two of Scott Hill's five children watching from the benches Jozefiak rushed out of the courtroom as Perkins started in.
“I’ve thought a lot about what I would say,” Perkins said, looking pained, “Words are damn cheap and create a lot of damage and hurt…and I don’t believe anything I can say now can fix that damage.” Referring to the death of her husband Michael, Perkins said that at the time of Hill’s death “I didn’t know five years ago what it felt like to see somebody suffer and to have children lose their father.”
Perkins went on to say that it “broke her heart” that she could not take back the suffering she’d caused. “I didn’t know and that’s no excuse but if it gives you comfort to know that I will bear this grief my whole life, be comforted,” she said before concluding in a near whisper “I am so sorry.”
Following Perkins' statement Judge DiMauro remarked that it struck her overall as being “more an expression of sympathy” that one would hear from someone who had just been told about a sad happening rather than a direct admission of guilt.
“She has never acknowledged that she and she alone is responsible for what happened to Scott Hill and Emma Jozefiak,” the judge said.