Author details Vt. murder

It was a story buried as deep as Michael Martin himself.  Stifled beneath two years of silence, a million dollar beer and wine department, court records, a .380 semi-automatic handgun, a hearse, and a 17-year prison sentence lay the truth.
On Oct. 15 Castleton’s Business Administration and Communication departments hosted an event with award-winning journalist and columnist Joyce Marcel to share her experience of writing “Visions, Values, and Tragedy” her feature story about the Brattleboro Co-op murder.
Marcel said after six months of reporting and writing, the story was published in the independent, nonprofit newspaper, The Commons, and sought to unveil the truth behind what really went wrong in the Co-op.
“We held our breath and put it into print July 17 and waited for the bomb to drop,” she said.
But the explosion never came. Instead hundreds of people commended her on her work and thanked her for shedding light onto what brought Richard Gagnon to snap that Tuesday in August and put a bullet in the back of the head his boss, Michael Martin.
Marcel said at first she was afraid to contact Gagnon and even left the envelope of his letters from a Kentucky prison unopened on the corner of her desk for a few days before diving in. The 50 pages of hand-written letters and phone calls revealed that the murder was the breaking point after years of built-up tensions in the work place.
“I’ve never said a word to Richard, except those phone calls. I just like the wine,” she said. “But I know Michael Martin was a bully.”
In the months of investigating, Co-op employees came forward and spoke of Gagnon’s plight leading up to the murder.
“At times I felt like a psychotherapist. I kept a box of tissues on my desk,” she said.
Both Gagnon and his wife, Meg McCarthy, revealed that murder was not his original intent. The weekend before the shooting he clung to the weapon with his mind on another track.
“Suddenly, the gun looked like deliverance,” Gagnon said in a letter to Marcel. “All I had wanted to do was to walk away and fire one shot, and it would all be over. My mind balked at the creepy finality of it, but my twisted mind was incapable of reason. It was stuck in one gear, playing one song over and over, suicide.”
 He did eventually pull the trigger, just with a redirected barrel.
“I was with him for 26 years, and I’d never seen a violent episode or a whiff of violence,” McCarthy told Marcel. “What happened was not him.”
Throughout the investigation Marcel said she sympathized with McCarthy as the forgotten victim. She watched as McCarthy unwaveringly stood by her husband who she sees just four times a year when she travels to Kentucky to visit him in prison.
Marcel said she often considered her own 24-year marriage during her reporting.
“When I see Meg I think, ‘What would I do? Could I still love him?'” she said.
In the end, Marcel said she accomplished what she had been hoped for.
“We were afraid, but we did the right thing,” she said speaking of her staff at The Commons.
She took the initiative to dig deep and gave Gagnon and other Co-op employees the opportunity to express that there was far more to the incident than the instant he pulled the trigger.
“This is probably my last shining glory and I’m thrilled we did the story,” Marcel said.

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