Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  2. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  3. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.
  4. Trump fallout: Bucs' DeSean Jackson to make 'statement' Sunday


    Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson said Saturday that he will make a "statement" before today's game against the Vikings in response to President Donald Trump's comment that owners should "fire" players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) makes a catch during the first half of an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.
  5. Kriseman invites Steph Curry to St. Pete on Twitter


    Mayor Rick Kriseman is no stranger to tweaking President Donald Trump on social media.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman took to Twitter Saturday evening to wade into President Donald Trump's latest social media scuffle