Vail murder trial to move to Clear Creek

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— A little more than a week after defense attorneys requested a change of venue for the Richard “Rossi” Moreau first-degree murder trial, District Court Judge R. Thomas Moorhead ruled Wednesday that the trial now will take place in March at the Clear Creek County Courthouse.

The change of venue is the latest of many judicial delays since a Nov. 8, 2009, shooting in West Vail that left Dr. Gary Kitching, of Carbondale, dead. Moreau is charged with eight felonies, including first-degree murder, stemming from that night.

The request for a change of trial venue came on the second day of jury selection last week, though public defenders Dana Christiansen and Reed Owens alluded to such a request in January when they filed a motion requesting sanctions. The motion claimed that District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Mallory strategically misled the press by including excerpts from mental-health reports in their motion, knowing that the Vail Daily would pull quotes from those motions.

“The prosecution’s attempt to influence potential jurors is sufficient that a change of venue may be necessary,” the defense motion stated.

The motion went on to claim that Hurlbert and Mallory were trying to taint the potential jury pool by including the excerpts, to which Hurlbert replied in a response that the excerpts were used only to prove the prosecution’s basis for asking for specific records held by the defense.

Kitching’s widow, Lani Kitching, arrived in court Wednesday with a woman she identified as her neighbor, and both of them were accompanied by a victim’s advocate who sat with them during the short hearing. Lani Kitching was at the Sandbar in West Vail the night her husband was killed. She was hiding behind a couch about 10 feet away when her husband was shot in the chest, left thigh and arm, according to police reports. Video surveillance from the shooting shows Lani Kitching stand over her husband for a brief moment as police escort her away from the scene.

The Clear Creek County Courthouse is in Georgetown, about 80 miles from the Eagle County Courthouse and well out of the print circulation territory of the Vail Daily, which has covered the case closely.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Feb. 1.

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