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June trial date set for Taberg brothers

Sean I. Mills
Posted 2/8/22

UTICA A tentative trial date has been set at June 6 for the Taberg brothers accused of shooting and stabbing their third brother to death in their Route 69 home. The date was set Tuesday afternoon, …

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June trial date set for Taberg brothers

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UTICA - A tentative trial date has been set at June 6 for the Taberg brothers accused of shooting and stabbing their third brother to death in their Route 69 home.

The date was set Tuesday afternoon, when Micheal Westcott appeared before Judge Robert L. Bauer for a pre-trial suppression hearing. The hearing was held to determine if statements Westcott made to investigators could be used at the upcoming trial, and whether or not the state police had followed Westcott’s Constitutional Miranda Rights — including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

According to state police, Matthew Westcott shot and killed his brother, James Westcott, at their Route 69 home in the Town of Annsville on Sept. 17. Shortly after the shooting, troopers said Micheal Westcott took a kitchen knife and stabbed the dying James multiple times in the back of the head.

Matthew Westcott is charged with second-degree murder. His own suppression hearing was held on Jan. 21. Judge Bauer has not yet issued a decision on Matthew Westcott’s statements. Matthew is next scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 28 to discuss a psychiatric evaluation.

Micheal Westcott is charged with attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

‘Not a suspect’

State Trooper Meagan L. Hartmann was the first witness called at the suppression hearing on Tuesday. She testified about interviewing Micheal at the scene as a witness. She said she took an initial statement without reading Micheal his rights.

“He was not a suspect,” Hartmann explained to the judge. She said the father and mother were interviewed by other troopers.

The day after the homicide, the investigators testified that an autopsy had been conducted on James Westcott and the doctor discovered several knife wounds at the back of James’ head. Because of this new evidence, the investigators testified that they wanted to interview Micheal and his parents again.

Sr. Inv. Dennis Dougherty testified on Tuesday that they initially thought the father could explain the knife wounds. When the father could not, Dougherty said the investigators began to suspect that Micheal might be involved.

“At the beginning of the interview, we didn’t believe Micheal to be a suspect, based on the information that we had,” Dougherty testified.

The investigator said Micheal was interviewed for about 20 minutes as a witness before the they began to suspect his involvement. Dougherty said Micheal was then read his rights and the interview continued, lasting for a total of four hours. Investigators said that the first half of the interview had audio recording, and the second half of the interview had both audio and video recording.

Sr. Inv. Jacob Byron testified that he took down Micheal’s second written statement.

Statement

Micheal’s two statements were not read out loud in the courtroom on Tuesday. However, one of his statements was read out loud at a prior hearing in the case.

In the second statement, Micheal told the investigators that he heard his brother James “gasping” after being shot. In the statement, Micheal referred to his brother James by the nickname “Bubba”.

“Bubba looked mangled. I tried to ease Bubba’s suffering,” Michael told state police. He said he specifically aimed for the back of the neck, because if he could hit the spinal cord, then “it stops everything else.”

Michael said it took “two or three” stabs.

“Bubba was not breathing when I finished stabbing him,” Michael said in his statement. “I’m having a very difficult time recalling all the details of what happened that day.”

After making these admissions, Dougherty testified that Micheal asked about needing an attorney.

“He asked if he was going to get an attorney. I took that as him asking if he was going to get an attorney if he was arrested,” Dougherty told the judge. He said that he did not respond to Micheal’s mention of an attorney, and the idea of getting an attorney did not come up again.

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