FORT EDWARD — A pretrial hearing scheduled for this week in the murder case against a Fort Ann man accused of killing his grandmother was postponed as the judge in the case reviews a request to throw out the charges.
Kevin L. Gonyea was due in court Thursday for a hearing to determine whether the statements he made to police officers who investigated the case can be used at trial in the case.
Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan instead postponed the hearing until Jan. 9 as he reviews a motion to dismiss filed by Gonyea’s lawyer, Greg Teresi. Teresi has claimed there is insufficient evidence to support the charges against his client, and that there were legal errors during the grand jury review of the matter.
Gonyea, 50, faces seven charges, including second-degree murder and charges related to disposing of evidence, for the strangulation death of 95-year-old Leona Twiss last July 9. Gonyea was her grandson, and he is accused of choking her to death with a towel in her home.
His wife, Melissa Gonyea, was charged with helping him dispose of the towel allegedly used to kill Twiss, and she pleaded guilty to seven charges last month, agreeing to testify against her husband in exchange for a 4-2/3- to 14-year prison sentence.
He also faces charges that accuse him of welfare fraud before Twiss’ death. Court records show the alleged fraud involved forgery of Twiss’ signature, indicating Gonyea paid rent at her home when he was actually living there for free, and a failure to list money he was being paid to be her caretaker in order to collect public assistance.
McKeighan is also reviewing possible issues with subpoenas for cell phone records that were drawn up in the case, and whether those issues would affect the indictment or evidence in the case. One was dated after the indictment, while Teresi contends the subpoenas were illegal because they were for out-of-state evidence.
“It’s certainly related to the grand jury proceedings,” Teresi said. “They used that information at the grand jury proceedings.”
He said the problematic subpoenas are another example of a “rush to judgment” by police and prosecutors to pin the death on the Gonyeas, when there are other suspects.
The Washington County District Attorney’s Office has responded to Teresi’s motion, providing additional details about the allegations and opposing the motion to dismiss. District Attorney Tony Jordan said his office is preparing for trial, and does not see any reason that pretrial motions would change that.
“I’m not aware of any issues of significance,” Jordan said.
McKeighan is expected to rule on the motion to dismiss before the Jan. 9 hearing. No trial date has been set in the case, but trial is likely early next year.
Both Gonyeas are being held in Washington County Jail, pending further court action. He faces 25 years to life in prison on the murder charge, and possible consecutive charges for the lesser counts.
A motive for the killing of Twiss has been unclear, although authorities have speculated the Gonyeas wanted to return to their home state of Florida and Twiss, who had Alzheimer’s Disease, was an obstacle to doing so.