Guilty plea in machete attack
By Brent Curtis
Staff Writer | March 19,2014
A 62-year-old Castleton man pleaded guilty Tuesday to injuring his neighbors during an attack with a machete.
Emilliano Zapatta pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment and was given a five-month to one-year suspended sentence which he will serve on probation.
In exchange for his guilty plea, state prosecutors amended the charges against him from felony counts of aggravated assault to the misdemeanor charges he pleaded to. Prosecutors also dropped a misdemeanor charge against Zapatta of violating his court-ordered conditions of release.
The Pond Hill Road resident was arrested in September 2012 after a border dispute with his neighbors turned bloody.
Castleton Police said in court records that Zapatta assaulted Douglas and Sheila Cook who live next door to him and whom he was battling in court at the time. The Cooks’ home sits on land that once belonged to Zapatta.
Douglas Cook, 77, told police he was checking on some trees near the boundary of his property and Zapatta’s land when Zapatta attacked him. Cook told police he fell to the ground while trying to run away and Zapatta jumped on him holding a machete.
Zapatta allegedly pinned his neighbor to the ground and wrapped an electrical cord around his neck that Cook said choked him into unconsciousness.
Sheila Cook, 72, said she and a friend who was visiting witnessed the assault and ran to help. Sheila Cook told police that she grappled with Zapatta, trying to wrestle the machete away from him as he struck her in the head with the handle and punched her husband in the face.
The couple’s friend Nancy Ward told police she picked up a heavy metal wire and struck Zapatta repeatedly in the back of the head.
Zapatta ran back to his house as sirens approached, Ward said.
When he was questioned by police, Zapatta, a former airline captain, said he was walking in the woods with his dogs when he came upon Douglas Cook pouring gasoline onto a generator Zapatta owns.
Zapatta said he tried to tie Cook’s hands with the extension cord to secure him until police arrived.
Officer Cheri McDermott of the Castleton Police Department said she found no gasoline on Zapatta’s generator.
During Zapatta’s appearance in court in 2012, his defense attorney argued that Zapatta couldn’t have attacked his neighbor because of a disability that made it difficult for him to walk.
During the arraignment, the defense attorney also pointed out bandages on Zapatta’s hands and a long cut on his forehead that he said were the result of injuries inflicted by the Cooks.