Hyde Park, VT — The man accused of killing 29-year-old Fern Feather was in court on Thursday, after a 24-hour delay to allow the defense attorneys to have more time to speak to their client face-to-face.

Fern Feather’s loved ones were in the courtroom when the suspect, Seth Brunell entered a plea of not guilty.

Those who knew and loved Fern Feather are trying to make sense of what happened this week when Feather was stabbed and killed. Among those in court today was Flora, who says they were partners. Flora had known Feather when they were teens but reconnected last summer.

“Immediately was like this excitement of reconnection and it was powerful,” said Flora. “I hadn’t seen him for some years. We both felt like we had to be together.” Flora and Fern had taken a road trip out west when they were collecting tropical plants on a school bus. “We drove it all around the West Coast. Fern’s passion was collecting tropical plants for his nursery and we filled the school bus with plants.”

Another friend named Grace Kennaugh said, “One of my favorite memories of Fern is when I ran into Fern at the grocery store. And they coached me through the whole entire process of baking and stuffing portabella mushrooms and made sure to message me and text me to make sure I did it right.”

Just last week, the two had been discussing writing a book. “Fern said the strangest thing. If I’m not around for this, you have permission to tell my story.”

As for first impressions of Fern, Grace said, “Oh my god, this human being is so radiant and amazing and I know that so many other people felt that way about Fern. Fern always had a thousand-watt smile and was always so welcoming and kind.”

The suspect, Brunell, is facing second-degree murder charges.

“We are limited to charging the evidence that we have. There may be the intention of a hate crime, but there is not sufficient evidence to charge the defendant with a hate crime. If the evidence supports the charge of a hate crime, we will certainly pursue it.” 

The Deputy States Attorney says attacks on the LGBTQ+ community have to stop. “These actions and brutality for LGBTQ+ members are just not unacceptable. We can’t put the blinders up anymore and it’s not something that can be ignored.” 

She also had a message for Feather’s friend. “They need to know that Fern is an amazing human being. We have an incredible amount of support at our office. Our community does not condone hate and prejudice. We will fight until we see him convicted.” 

Prosecuting attorney says those who are mourning can contact a safe space advocates hotline at 802-863-0003.