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News of Otsego County

County Judge Brian Burns

At Sentencing, Heller’s Family Lashes Truitt
‘He Can’t Destroy Anyone Else’s Life Ever Again’

AT SENTENCING,

HELLER’S FAMILY

LASHES TRUITT

Erika Heller, center, criticizes Gabriel Truitt, foreground, for rolling his eyes as she read her victim’s impact statement at Truitt’s sentencing this morning. Truitt, who was found guilty of the arson and murder of John Heller in January, was sentenced to life in prison without parole. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Truitt slouches in his chair as County Judge Brian Burns reads off a list of his prior convictions, starting when he was 17 years old.

COOPERSTOWN – Erika Heller, John Heller’s sister-in-law, did not hold back as she read her victim’s impact statement at the sentencing of Gabriel Truitt in Otsego County Court this morning.

“You stole John from us,” she said. “For four young boys, you stole childhood and innocence and peace of mind. We are all serving a life sentence because of the selfish decision you made. You should have to do the same.”

Truitt, 35, was sentenced to life without parole for the murder of John Heller, who died rescuing his fiancée, Amber Roe, and his four nephews after Truitt set a fire in the 5 Walling Ave. apartment house where they lived in an attempt to murder his girlfriend, Heather Engler, who he had fought with prior to setting the fire on Dec. 29, 2018.

‘I Had To Do It For John’ Fiancee Recalls At Guilty Verdict

Truitt Guilty Of Arson, Murder

‘I Had To Do It For John,’

Fiancee Declares At Verdict

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.ALLOTSEGO.com

Erika Heller, left, embraces Amber Roe, fiancee of the late John Heller, who died rescuing her and Erika’s four sons from a fire that Gabriel Truitt was found guilty of setting this afternoon. (Libby Cudmore/AllOTSEGO.com)

COOPERSTOWN – It took just over two hours for the jury to find Gabriel Trutt, 33, guilty of arson and murder in the Dec. 29, 2018, fatal fire at 5 Walling Ave., Oneonta, that killed John Heller.

Heller, a former Oneonta fireman, got his four nephews and fiancée to safety before he was trapped in the third-floor apartment and succumbed to the smoke.  He was hailed as a hero.

“I’m thrilled, but this isn’t about whether I won or lost,” said District Attorney John Muehl. “This really is justice. He was guilty and the evidence was overwhelming. We can’t bring John back, but we did as much as we could for him.”

TRUITT GUILTY IN ARSON, MURDER

BULLETIN

TRUITT GUILTY

IN ARSON, MURDER

Gabriel Truitt, right, stands as the jury reads the “guilty” verdict on the charges of arson in the first degree, murder in the first degree, and two counts of murder in the second degree. (Libby Cudmore/AllOTSEGO.com)

COOPERSTOWN – Shortly after noon today, a jury found Gabriel Truitt guilty on all four counts of arson and murder charges in the Dec. 29, 2018, early morning fire at 5 Whalling Ave., Oneonta, where former Oneonta firefighter John Heller died.

This is a developing story; please check back this afternoon for details.

RECAP OF THE CASE

Proceedings Underway in Truitt Case

Investigator Testimony: Accelerant Under Door

Accelerant Isopropyl Alcohol, Arson Expert Testifies

Girlfriend: Suspect Fought Before Fatal Fire Set

Brother Disavows Testimony To Grand Jury, Police

District Attorney Challenges Truitt’s Brother

In Closing Statements, Attorneys Debate Timeline

In Closing Statements, Attorneys Debate Timeline

Truitt Case Heads To Jury

In Closing Statements,

Attorneys Debate Timeline

Public Defender Michael Trosset calls the timeline of the fire into question during his closing statements in the trial of Gabriel Truitt. (Libby Cudmore/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to ALLOTSEGO.com

District Attorney John Muehl confers with John Heller’s family in the courtroom.

COOPERSTOWN – For two minutes, District Attorney John Muehl stood in complete silence.

“Gabriel Truitt is at 5 Walling Avenue for two minutes,” he told the jury. “You may think that’s not much time, but you can get a lot done in two minutes, especially if you’ve planned to.”

Muehl, along with Public Defender Michael Trosset, made their closing statements this afternoon in the case of Gabriel Truitt, who is charged with arson and murder in the death of former firefighter John Heller.

Brother Refutes Grand Jury, Police Testimony

TRUITT TRIAL: Day 3

Brother Disavows

Testimony He Gave

Grand Jury, Police

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

The accused, Gabriel Truitt, center, listens as his brother Terrence testifies this afternoon. With him are legal assistant Lisa Harvey and Attorney David Taylor. (Libby Cudmore/AllOTSEGO.com)

COOPERSTOWN – Gabriel Truitt’s defense lawyers this afternoon declared they hadn’t been provided a videotape of his brother Terrence speaking with OPD officers in February 2018 brought the fatal-arson trial to a temporary standstill this afternoon.

Terrence also told the court the testimony he would give would be at odds with the statements he gave to grand jury and police, further muddying the waters.  “He had a sworn affidavit saying he lied,” said District Attorney John Muehl.

County Judge Brian Burns advised the brother he may have already committed perjury and that he did have the right to remain silent, as well as a chance to get a lawyer.

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