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Attempted murder trial underway for Edwardsburg shooting

Published 6:31pm Tuesday, July 31, 2012

CASSOPOLIS — Did Kevin Brian Vint, of Elkhart, attempt to murder an Edwardsburg man by shooting him twice in an Edwardsburg pole barn, or was Vint acting in self-defense?

That is what a jury of 12 must decide in Vint’s jury trial, which began Tuesday in Cass County Circuit Court and continues Wednesday morning. Vint is being charged with four felonies, including assault with intent to murder.

In her opening statement, Assistant Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle called Vint a “calculated, cold blooded, would-be murderer,” who harbored irrational anger towards the victim, Trevor Claire, 44. She said Vint shot Claire twice — once in the chest and once in the leg — using a semi-automatic handgun with a laser scope and hollow-point bullets in a pole barn on Five Points Road in Mason Township Jan. 22.

Vint’s attorney, Lanny Winston Fisher, however, said the court would hear evidence showing Claire came at Vint with a tool and Vint fired in self-defense. Fisher said the victim had threatened Vint with bodily harm on occasions leading to the incident.

“This is a self-defense case,” Fisher said. “He used force, just enough to stop the attack that was coming.”

John Stone, owner of the pole barn where the alleged crime took place, said he heard through others there was bad blood between the defendant and the victim, although he didn’t know the cause.

It was implied by the prosecution and defense, however, that a woman was at the center of the bad blood. Sara Broadbent-Claire and Trevor Claire were married until 10 years ago, the court heard. The pair had two children together. The court also heard Sara and Vint dated for an unspecified period of time until approximately two years ago.

On the day of the incident, testimony showed Trevor Claire arrived at Stone’s pole barn around 9 a.m. to work on his mini-van. Stone said the pole barn contains several tools and a large space in which to work on cars. Stone said he allows many people to use his garage, including Claire. Including Claire and Vint, there were five people in the pole barn at the time of the incident: Stone, Gary Wayne Fletcher and Terry Browning. Another witness, Kevin Jaseph, said he was outside the pole barn when he heard two gunshots.

Several people testified Vint came to the pole barn to have coffee and chat with Stone.

The most damaging testimony for the defense came from Fletcher, who was closest witness to the incident. Fletcher said he saw Vint kneeling beside Claire’s minivan and aiming a gun at Claire, who was underneath the vehicle at the time doing auto repairs. Fletcher said Claire got out from under the vehicle and moved towards Vint, who fired one shot into Claire’s chest and another into his leg.

Fletcher said he didn’t see anything in Claire’s hands. In fact, no witnesses testified seeing an object in Claire’s hands. However, police did place into evidence a socket wrench found near the spot where the incident occurred.

Stone testified it would be unusual for a tool to be lying where the socket wrench was lying because that part of the pole barn is generally used as a walkway.

There were conflicting testimonies as to what happened in the moments immediately leading to the incident.

Stone said he heard Vint ask Claire if “things were cool between us” while Vint was kneeling near the van and Claire was underneath the van. Stone also said he didn’t see a gun in Vint’s hand at that time.

Jaseph said he left the garage because Vint and Claire were arguing loudly. Moments after leaving the garage, Jaseph said he heard two shots.

Fletcher said he heard Vint say “I’ll cap you” prior to shooting Claire.

Testimony wrapped up around 3:50 p.m. Vohwinkle said Claire would take the stand tomorrow.

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