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RUTLAND — Alleged murderer Michael Louise was in Rutland County Superior Court on Friday to determine if bail will be set in his case. The 80-year-old from Liverpool, N.Y. was arrested on Oct. 13 in connection with the 1989 murders of his in-laws, George and Catherine Peacock of Danby, and extradited to Vermont two weeks later.

Friday’s hearing was for Judge Cortland Corsones to hear the weight of the evidence in the case to determine if bail will be set. In cases such as Louise’s, where the potential sentence is life in prison, the court has the option to hold the defendant without bail. The burden to prove that there is enough evidence to do so rests with the state.

The hearing was a window into the challenges the state will face in making its case against Louise, now over 33 years removed from the double homicide. Louise’s attorney, Dan Sedon, contended that more than half of the exhibits filed as evidence by Deputy State’s Attorney Jared Bianchi were inadmissible hearsay.

Sedon argued that much of the analysis and evidence presented in the probable cause affidavit filed by the case’s current lead investigator, Det. Sgt. Samuel Truex, is based on reports and statements taken by two detectives who are now deceased, Det. Sgt. Brian Abbey and Det. Sgt. Robert Jalbert.

“Anything based on the personal knowledge of (Det. Sgt. Truex) is admissible in a weight of the evidence hearing. But merely packaging another person’s statements into an affidavit doesn’t make them admissible,” Sedon argued in court.

“Police reports are not admissible at trial. Juries don’t get to read police reports,” Sedon later told the Banner. “This collection of documents is … the statements of multiple investigators, multiple witnesses, conclusions, analysis, lab reports. It is not the personal knowledge of Det. Sgt. Truex.”

Further complicating the issue, the medical examiner who performed the autopsies on the Peacocks, Dr. Paul Morrow, now lives in New Zealand, and may also not be available to testify.

“I’ve never been involved in a homicide trial where an autopsy report was admitted as a piece of evidence,” Sedon said.

With the prosecution unable to have Abbey and Jalbert testify to their reports, evidence collected and statements taken, Corsones agreed with Sedon that some of those exhibits would be inadmissible. Bianchi argued that many of the documents were submitted not to speak to Louise’s guilt, but rather as building blocks in the case.

“Those statements are not being admitted for the truth of the matter asserted. But to explain the next steps in the detectives’ process,” Bianchi explained.

Bianchi also asserted that a significant amount of the police work documented was by officers who are still alive and can testify, Det. Sgt. Paul Barci and Det. Lt. Gary Boutin.

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Many larger documents are still pending Corsones’ review for which parts will be allowed.

Sedon and Bianchi will make their arguments and will hear Corsones’ ruling on bail at a date still to be determined.

The hearing proceeded with witness testimony. Truex, who became the lead investigator on the cold case in May 2020, testified to his review and analysis of the crime scene videos and photos taken in 1989 to establish that as his own personal knowledge for the court.

Following that, Sedon called several family members to the stand to speak to Louise’s character, who all described him as loving, caring, mild-mannered and slow to anger. George Leonard, married to Louise’s stepdaughter Kimberly, even described him as “a big, gentle teddy bear.”

Donald Smith, married to another of Louise’s stepdaughters, testified that he fully trusted Louise with his own children, but later admitted that he was not aware of Louise’s 1966 conviction for the sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl in Rhode Island until he read the probable cause affidavit for this case.

Sedon’s final witness was Louise’s wife, the daughter of the victims, Penelope “Penny” Louise. Sedon’s line of questioning revolved around the piece of evidence that led to Michael Louise’s arrest, the spot of blood that was collected from the driver’s side floor mat of the Louises’ vehicle — a 1986 Chevy Celebrity — in the weeks following the murders. Advances in DNA technology allowed the small sample to be retested in May 2020, and it was found to be a match for George Peacock’s blood.

“The interesting thing in this case is that for 34 years, the evidence has been the same. The only change being this little spot of blood in the car,” Sedon said following the hearing. “So the real question at arguments is going to be: So what’s that mean?”

Penny Louise testified that she, her sister and Michael Louise all traveled to Vermont from Liverpool the following day after learning of her parents’ death. She stated that she could not recall for sure if it was the Chevy Celebrity they drove to Vermont that day, but that would have been the vehicle they took on a longer trip such as that. She also testified that there was still blood on the floor of the Peacocks' home when they arrived there.

During cross-examination, Bianchi sought to discredit this testimony by asking if she remembered a phone call between herself and Michael Louise shortly after his arrest, which she said she did not. Bianchi played part of a recording of that conversation in an attempt to jog her memory, during which Michael Louise discussed some of the evidence the police had against him with her.

Penny Louise’s explanation for not remembering the October 2022 conversation was that she was in shock. Bianchi’s contention was that if she couldn’t remember having a conversation several months ago, then her testimony on anything three decades ago could not be admitted.

Tory Rich can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @ToryRich6


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