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Man convicted of manslaughter in fatal fight at Port Richey homeless camp

NEW PORT RICHEY — If not for his alcohol addiction, Brian Vivier wouldn't have lost his business, his family and his home.

If not for a man named Ted Brunter, a jury decided Wednesday, Vivier wouldn't have lost his life.

Vivier was 48 and living as a drifter in a Port Richey homeless camp when he clashed with Brunter. Like Vivier, Brunter had battled alcoholism for years and traded family life for the streets.

The two men got into a fight on Sept. 27, 2006. No one could say what about.

But Brunter prevailed, leaving Vivier with a bloodied face, fractured skull and broken ribs. Vivier was taken to a hospital the next morning and, after twice leaving against medical advice and then returning, died two days later.

Brunter, then 43, was charged with manslaughter. He went to trial Wednesday.

The state put two men on the stand who saw the injured Vivier the morning after the attack and heard Brunter bragging about beating a man.

"He showed me, demonstrated with his fists first, and then showed me where he was kicking him in the ribs with construction boots," Patrick Murray testified.

A DNA analyst said blood found on Brunter's clothing was a match to the victim's blood. And a medical examiner determined Vivier's cause of death to be blunt trauma.

But the jury had several complicating factors to consider.

Brunter's attorney, Mark Thellman, noted that none of Vivier's blood was found on Brunter's boots despite testimony he'd kicked Vivier repeatedly. And Thellman said that since no witness had seen the two men fighting, it was impossible to pinpoint when or how Vivier was injured.

"All we have are these hollow accusations that Mr. Brunter did it," Thellman said.

But most in doubt, Thellman argued, was the real reason Vivier died. Had he not left the hospital — twice — against doctors' advice, could he still be alive?

"His own reasons for leaving that hospital put himself in a situation where he caused his death," Thellman said.

But the six-member jury disagreed, deliberating just 45 minutes before finding Brunter guilty.

Circuit Judge Michael Andrews, noting Brunter's long history of battery convictions, immediately handed him the maximum sentence: 15 years in prison.

"I don't even know what started this," the judge said, "but in the end you beat him to death."

Afterward, Vivier's ex-wife and daughter hugged and thanked the jurors. They recalled the better points of the man they lost to addiction.

Susanne Buckely, Vivier's former wife, said she would check on him at the homeless camp and bring him food. Kristy Vivier, his daughter, often talked to him on the phone but hadn't seen him for more than a year before he died.

"He was a really good guy," Kristy Vivier said, "just . . . beer."

Man convicted of manslaughter in fatal fight at Port Richey homeless camp 05/06/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 6, 2009 9:11pm]
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