By Joyce McClure
One of the two defendants in the killing of Yap’s former acting attorney general, Rachelle Bergeron, was found guilty of murder charges.
Yap State Court Associate Justice Jonathan M. Tun issued the verdict Thursday, convicting Anthony Tun Teteeth who was implicated in the Oct. 14, 2019 incident that shocked the community and made international headlines.
Bergeron received three fatal shots after returning home from jogging along with her dog, which also died in the shooting.
"As gruesome as it may seem, the court is left with the only conclusion possible: that defendant did intentionally cause the death of Rachelle Bergeron," the court said, citing the fatal gunshots sustained by the American lawyer, as well as the damage to the government house and the victim's vehicle.
In response to the defense attorney's argument that Tun's intention was just "scare the victim," the court pointed out that "there is a whole wide range of acts that defendant could have taken to effect the scaring of the victim without using a shotgun, firing three times, while aiming at the victim."
Tun was charged on Nov. 20, 2019 along with Francis Choay Buchun, who was named co-conspirator.
The case took more than three years to conclude due to the FSM’s closed border during the pandemic.
Tun was slapped with 19 charges including conspiracy to commit murder, murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide, and assault with a dangerous weapon, among others.
He was acquitted of charges of threats, criminal coercion, and threats to influence official matters.
The judge has yet to set a date for sentencing, but it is usually two to three weeks after the verdict is read, according to court procedures.
Under the Yap State Code, murder is punishable by 10 years to life imprisonment, or a maximum fine of $10,000—or both.
Buchun was charged with 19 identical counts. Closing statements in his trial were made in court last week.
Yap State’s Chief Justice Cyprian Manmaw is expected to hand down a verdict on Buchun on Jan. 13.
The prosecution, led by the government’s attorney, Jeffrey S. Tilfas, maintained that the two defendants “acted in concert” to plan and execute “the violent act.”
The FSM Supreme Court will hear the defendants’ cases for two violations of ammunition and weapons acquisition and/or possession in February.
More details to follow.