By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Otsego County’s first slaying of 2017 – on New Year’s morning – happened in an Oneonta apartment with a surveillance camera in every room.
The cameras helped put suspect Joshua Underwood, 25, in the victim’s room, and help convict the man, said District Attorney John Muehl.
Underwood was convicted Friday, March 30, to 20 years in jail.
“Witnesses said they got into a fight about Joshua Underwood having a girlfriend,” said Muehl. “Morrison went to bed, and on video, we have Underwood checking on Morrison. Shortly after that, the video went out, and that’s about the approximate time Morrison was killed.”
Following the attack, Muehl said, Underwood stuffed papers under the door and “half-heartedly” attempted to light them on fire, then walked to the Mirabito station on Southside to call 911 at 3:30 a.m. and report the murder.
Underwood had been facing 25 to life on a second-degree murder charge, but Muehl offered him two options for a plea – 15 to life, or a straight 20. “His lawyer came back an argument that he was under extreme emotional distress,” said Muehl. “If a jury heard that, they might have found him guilty of manslaughter, so I offered him the sentence they might have come back with.”
Though he was originally represented by public defender Bruce Maxon, at his original sentencing on Dec. 15, Underwood told Judge Brian Burns that Burns had coerced him into entering a guilty plea, refused to meet with him on specific occasions, and did not return his calls.
David Taylor was assigned the case, and Underwood accepted the plea.
On Friday, Kevin Perry, 23, was also offered a plea deal for the Dec. 12 shooting deaths of his parents, 59-year-old Timothy Perry and 52-year-old Solveig Perry.
Though originally charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder, Muehl offered two counts of second-degree murder in exchange for a 25-to-life prison sentence, to be served concurrently.
“We’re hoping to settle short of a trial and keep his family from reliving that,” said Muehl.
Perry is also represented by Maxon. A court date has not yet been set for Perry to announce his decision on the plea offer.
And Julian Vancourt-Wels, the former SUNY Oneonta student charged with felony second-degree attempted murder, felony first-degree assault and misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon in the Dec. 8 stabbing attack on his girlfriend, was also offered a plea.
Prosecutors offered him a 15 year sentenced in exchange for pleading guilty to assault. According to Muehl, Vancourt-Wels is considering a mental-health defense.