Judge denies release to suspect in Vermont slaying case

September 27, 2022 GMT

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) — A federal court judge on Tuesday denied a request for pretrial release for one of the men charged in connection with the alleged 2018 abduction and killing of a Vermont man as part of a dispute over a failed oil deal.

Berk Eratay, 35, a Turkish citizen who had been living in Las Vegas prior to his May arrest on the murder-for-hire charge, appeared in U.S. District Court in Rutland where his attorney Robert Katims said Eratay would be willing to live under 24-hour curfew in a private home in the Burlington area.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Van de Graaf said Eratay has no job or family in the United States and, facing life in prison, he would have a strong reason to flee prosecution.

U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford, noting the Canadian border is only about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Burlington, said Eratay had resources and strong family connections in Turkey.

“If Mr. Eratay were determined to return to Turkey he would certainly do so,” Crawford said in court.

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Eratay and Serhat Gumrukcu, 39, the co-founder of a Los Angeles-based biotechnology company, were arrested in May on charges stemming from the alleged January 2018 abduction and killing of 49-year-old Gregory Davis of Danville.

Prosecutors say Davis had been threatening to go to law enforcement with information that Gumrukcu was defrauding him in a multimillion-dollar oil deal that Gumrukcu and his brother had entered into with Davis in 2015.

Eratay, who worked for Gumrukcu, has pleaded not guilty. A third suspect has also pleaded not guilty while a fourth pleaded guilty.

Gumrukcu has not yet been returned to Vermont to enter a plea.

During the court hearing, Van de Graaf told Crawford Gumrukcu was expected back in Vermont within the next couple of weeks.