Jury: guilty, but no intent to killPublished 2:40pm Thursday, August 2, 2012
CASSOPOLIS — A Cass County jury did not believe Kevin Brian Vint, of Elkhart, intended to kill when he shot Trevor Claire, of Edwardsburg, twice in an Edwardsburg pole barn.
Therefore, the jury could not find Vint guilty of the prosecution’s original charge of assault with intent to commit murder.
However, the jury did find the defendant guilty of a lesser charge of assault to commit great bodily harm, less than murder, around noon Thursday in Cass County Circuit Court.
The conviction carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, whereas assault with intent to commit murder carries a penalty of life in prison, or any number of years.
Jury foreman, Dave Louthan, said Vint had many opportunities to kill Claire when he confronted him with a laser-scoped gun in a pole barn on Five Points Road in Mason Township Jan. 22.
Vint waved the gun’s red laser dot up and down Claire’s body while Claire was lying underneath his minivan doing auto repairs.
Only when Claire got out from under the vehicle and stepped forward did Vint fire, from close range, one .380 hollow-point bullet into Claire’s chest and another into his leg.
Vint then stepped over Claire’s body and walked outside to smoke a cigarette.
Louthan said the jury discussed the case vigorously over a period of about 2 1/2 hours Thursday morning.
“We really never felt he wanted to kill him,” Louthan said. “The consensus was he had plenty of opportunity when (Claire) was under the car, he could’ve pulled the trigger and blown his head off … even after he shot him, if he wanted him dead, he could’ve plugged him right there instead of walking over him.”
Louthan said he and fellow jurors were surprised by a perceived lack of remorse by Vint for the victim. However, Louthan said, if Vint did show remorse, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference in the verdict.
Vint’s defense attorney, Lanny Winston Fisher, claimed Vint was acting in self-defense when he shot Claire.
Vint was also found guilty of two felony firearm charges and carrying a weapon with unlawful intent.
Assistant Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle, who tried the case, said she was OK with the verdict, but still believes Vint’s actions constituted assault with intent to murder.
“I am happy that Mr. Vint is going to see some justice, and Mr. Claire is finally going to finally feel some peace,” Vohwinkle said. “This was a vicious, violent attack. It was very calculated, and he quite literally had that laser vision of death of Trevor Claire and Mr. Claire is lucky to be alive.”
A surgeon testified during trial that Claire had a 1 percent chance of surviving his injuries and that Claire would never fully recover.
Louthan said a picture entered into evidence not discussed in trial by either side might have played a role in the outcome.
Louthan said a member of the jury noticed an “ATA” (American Taekwondo Association) sticker on the bumper of Claire’s van.
Louthan said it led jurors to speculate whether or not Claire had martial arts training.
“If (Claire) was, (Vint) probably knew he couldn’t fight him physically,” Louthan said.
Vint and Claire admitted in court to not liking each other, stemming from Vint dating Claire’s ex-wife.
Prior to pulling out a gun, Vint asked Claire if things were OK between them. Claire said ‘no.’
Vint is scheduled for sentencing at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 21 in Cass County Circuit Court.