Criminal Justice

Indiana Traffic Stop Catches Vermont Murder Suspect

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July 3, 2013 — A traffic stop by a Jasper County, Indiana sheriff’s deputy for erractic driving has landed a Vermont man in jail on suspicion of murder.

49-year-old Peter Lavalette of Derby, about 10 miles south of the Canadian border in northwest Vermont, was spotted in the parking lot of a closed Family Express convenience store in Demotte. He told Deputy Kevin Lewis he was lost and needed directions. After Lewis gave directions Lavalette drove off erratically, and Lewis pulled him over. When Lavalette’s personal information did not match that of the registered owner of the car Lavalette told Lewis the reason the information didn’t match was because he killed the car’s owner.

Jasper County contacted Vermont State Police, and officers there found the body of 61-year-old George Kouzoujian inside a home in Westfield. Vermont State Police said he had been shot several times in the head.

Lavalette is in Jasper County Jail, expected to be extradicted in the next few days to Vermont.

Reported by Rick Richards

Jasper County Sheriff Terry J. Risner shared the following report:

On Monday, July 1, 2013, at approximately 10:23 P.M. Jasper County Deputy Kevin Lewis observed a white Ford Focus station wagon occupied parked in the Family Express parking lot of State Road 10 and US 231. As the business was closed, Deputy Lewis drove near the Ford Focus to ascertain the reason that the vehicle was setting in the parking lot. Contact was made with a subject later identified as Peter Lavalette, age 49 years from New Port Center, Vermont. Lavalette stated he was lost and seeking driving directions. Deputy Lewis provided Mr. Lavalette with instructions and proceeded to run a license check on the vehicle.

As the vehicle exited the parking lot, Deputy Lewis received a return on the Vermont license plate that did not match the driver’s name and also observed the vehicle to be driving erratically on US 231. At this time Deputy Lewis conducted a traffic stop on US 231 south of State Road 10 and conducted a field sobriety test on the driver (Lavalette). While the standard field sobriety test was in process, Lavalette stated to Deputy Lewis that the owner of the Ford Focus was dead. Lavalette went on to state that he had in fact killed the owner.

After learning this information, Deputy Lewis secured Lavalette and advised him of his rights. Lavalette continued with his admission providing name and location of the victim and murder scene. The Vermont State Police were contacted and provided with the details of Deputy Lewis’ contact with Lavalette who was being held at DeMotte Police Station pending confirmation from the Vermont State Police. During this time period Detective Matt Myers of the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene to assist with the investigation.

At approximately 1:30 A.M. on July 2 the Vermont State Police contacted Detective Myers and confirmed that they had located a dead body with initial evidence indicating a homicide scene. Lavalette was transported to the Jasper County Jail and held on Felony Operating While Intoxicated charges awaiting further charges from the Vermont State Police as they conduct their investigation.

Assisting at the scene was DeMotte Police and additional Jasper County Sheriff’s Deputies. The investigation continues by joint effort between Vermont State Police and Jasper County Sheriff’s Detectives.


By Terry J. Risner Sheriff

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