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Vermont homeless shelter employee 'butchered' with ax by resident: police

A homeless woman "was wiping blood off of her hands with a paper towel" after she allegedly killed a homeless shelter coordinator with an ax, police said.

Zaaina Asra Zakirrah Mahvish-Jammeh, a 38-year-old resident of Morningside House shelter in Brattleboro, Vermont, wanted to talk to Leah Rosin-Pritchard, a 36-year-old social worker, in the living room, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Responding officers, who reviewed security footage, said Mahvish-Jammeh and Rosin-Pritchard were out of the camera's view, but they heard a "muffled" conversation before the "thudding and screaming started," the affidavit says.

The two women entered view of the camera, which allegedly caught Mahvish-Jammeh attacking Rosin-Pritchard with an ax that she bought a day earlier for $33.69, according to the affidavit.

"It was a f------ brutal savage f------ murder," an unnamed witness told the Brattleboro Reformer. "I haven’t been able to sleep. Because every time I close my eyes, I see that s---."

Rosin-Pritchard suffered injuries to her head, face, neck and torso that made her "unrecognizable," the witness said.

After attacking Rosin-Pritchard, Mahvish-Jammeh then turned to another employee and said, "I like you. It's Leah I (sounds like didn't like or don't like). I like you," the affidavit alleges.

"Mahvish-Jammeh (named as ZMJ in the court documents) then takes a knife from the sink and continues to attack Rosin-Pritchard while she lay there on the ground before (continuing) to use the ax."

She took off some of the bloody clothes and carried the ax around the first floor, according to the affidavit.

"After the murder, she takes off the overalls and is wearing a bunny ear headband, blue socks, grey sweatpants and black slipper style footwear, but continued to carry the ax around the first floor," the affidavit alleges.

She surrendered to police without further incident.

While in custody, Mahvish-Jammeh was read her rights and asked for a lawyer without saying anything.

She was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge in Windham County Superior Court, where her lawyer entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf.

The judge ordered Mahvish-Jammeh to undergo a mental health evaluation after her public defender reportedly cited a screener's report that said her client had "significant mental health issues," the Brattleboro Reformer reported.

Groundworks Collaborative, which runs the shelter, said Rosin-Pritchard was "irreplaceable" and a "wonderfully strong, positive, beautiful and compassionate person" in a lengthy statement on Facebook.

"There are no words to express the depth of loss felt by her Groundworks teammates and residents. Our hearts go out to her family, friends and the broader Brattleboro community who knew her," Groundworks Collaborative said.

"We can unequivocally say that Groundworks will not be the same without Leah. Our staff and program participants are shocked and grieving.

"We are, at the same time, personally and organizationally impacted and focused on supporting each other while continuing to provide food, shelter, and supportive services to the people and the community who need us."

The National Association of Social Workers offered its condolences to Rosin-Pritchard's family and said it's advocating for legislation to improve social work safety.

"A national social work public opinion survey from Ipsos revealed 84% of Americans support such social work safety legislation," the organization said in a statement.

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