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Monday, January 8, 2018

Washington County State's Attorney Williams Resigns

Posted By on Mon, Jan 8, 2018 at 4:51 PM

  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Scott WIlliams
Updated on Tuesday, January 9, 2018.

Washington County State's Attorney Scott Williams has resigned, two months after going on health-related leave and seeking care at the Brattleboro Retreat.

In a statement released Monday by the Vermont Department of State's Attorneys and Sheriffs, Williams suggested that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and specifically mentioned the 2015 murder of Department for Children and Families social worker Lara Sobel.

"The office cannot function efficiently under reduced staffing, particularly in light of the significant number and the complexity of cases it handles. This decision will also allow me the time to focus on my health,” said Williams, who was first elected in 2014. He later added: “The effect of the murder of Lara Sobel requires that I focus on regaining my health."

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Cops: Man With Machete Attacks Woman at Shelburne Motel for the Homeless

Posted By on Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 6:05 PM

Harbor Place in Shelburne - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Harbor Place in Shelburne
A Burlington man with a machete attacked a woman at a Shelburne motel for the homeless and then barricaded himself inside a room for hours, according to police.

Officers charged Abukar Ibrahim, 32, with attempted murder after the Friday morning attack, Shelburne police said.

It began around 10 a.m., when cops responded to Harbor Place on Shelburne Road for a report about a man with a knife breaking car windows. Police arrived to find a 73-year-old woman with multiple injuries, including a “significant leg wound.” She was taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center, where she was treated and released.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Vermont Man Who Disfigured His Estranged Wife Dies in Prison

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 5:58 PM

  • Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
  • Camp Hill prison
Updated at 12:11 p.m. on December 19, 2017.

A 62-year-old Vermont man who beat and disfigured his estranged wife in a brutal 2007 attack has died while serving his sentence at a Pennsylvania prison, corrections officials said.

Herbert Rodgers died Monday morning at a Harrisburg, Pa., hospital, according to Janette Hoague, an executive staff assistant at the Vermont Department of Corrections. It "appears [his death] was related to an illness," she said.

Rodgers is the third Vermont inmate who has spent time at the Camp Hill prison to die in the last two months. Roger Brown, 68, died there of untreated metastatic cancer on October 15. Timothy Adams, 59, was serving his sentence at the prison when he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer in September. Officials transferred him to the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., where he died in early November.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

VCFA Student Helps Solve California Cold Case Murder

Posted By on Thu, Dec 14, 2017 at 5:02 PM

Left, Suzanne Arlene Bombardier, right, Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons. - COURTESY: JENNIFER KATHLEEN GIBBONS
  • Courtesy: Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons
  • Left, Suzanne Arlene Bombardier, right, Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons.
Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons, a Vermont College of Fine Arts student, was visiting her grandmother's gravesite in a California cemetery in 2013 when another headstone, made of pink marble, caught her eye.

The inscription read, "Suzanne Arlene Bombardier: Born on March 14, 1966. Died on June 22, 1980."

Something about it struck Gibbons. She searched for Bombardier on the internet and learned the teen had been sexually assaulted and murdered; her case was unsolved. Gibbons wrote about it in her journal and then dedicated a blog to the case. Her story set off an improbable chain of events that culminated on Monday when police in Antioch, Calif., arrested registered sex offender Mitchell Lynn Bacom, 63, and charged him with killing Bombardier.

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Vermont Law School Launches Center for Justice Reform

Posted By on Thu, Dec 14, 2017 at 11:09 AM

Vermont Law School - BEN DEFLORIO
  • Ben Deflorio
  • Vermont Law School
Vermont Law School announced Thursday that it will offer a master's degree in restorative justice as part of a new Center for Justice Reform it is opening.

The three-semester program, which will cater to both law students looking for dual degrees and standalone students, is expected to have about 15 pupils when it launches in the fall of 2018, and could grow to around 30, said the center's director, Robert Sand.

"People will learn about a new way to think about harm and conflict," said Sand, a former Windsor County state's attorney. "Instead of thinking about crime as a violation against the state or larger entity, our students will come to understand the relationship nature of crime and ask, who has been affected? How can they have a meaningful voice in shaping the outcome? What obligations does the individual owe who has created the harm, and how can we build a response that ... leads to healing instead of punishment?"

The master's program will include classes at the VLS campus and significant online learning opportunities, Sand said. Course offerings will cover mass incarceration and examining race in the criminal justice system.

VLS, which is best known for its environmental law program, is the first law school in the country to offer such a program, Sand said.

The center will include an expungement clinic where students will work with practicing attorneys to help people exercise their legal right to have their records wiped clean. Sand said he hopes to launch that initiative in coordination with the Chittenden County State's Attorney's Office.

Eventually, Sand said, the center could grow into a think tank, churning out position papers and hosting guest lecturers devoted to upending traditional criminal justice approaches.

As a prosecutor, Sand was an early advocate of marijuana decriminalization. He often testifies in the Statehouse on behalf of reform initiatives.

The move comes at a time when VLS, like many law schools, is struggling with budgetary problems tied to declining enrollment.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Judge Overturns Rutland Sex Offender Regulations

Posted By on Wed, Dec 13, 2017 at 4:56 PM

Downtown Rutland - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Downtown Rutland
A Rutland ordinance barring sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and other locations is illegal, a Rutland Superior Court judge has ruled.

Judge Samuel Hoar Jr. sided with three anonymous sex offenders who sued the city after they were forced to move, or pay massive fines, for living within areas protected by the 2008 ordinance.

The judge ruled that the city did not have legal authority to create the ordinance, and called the policy needlessly punitive.

"What the city has done here is effectively to declare an entire class of persons to be a public nuisance, by simple virtue of their physical existence," Hoar wrote in a 13-page decision issued December 8. "Plaintiffs have been convicted and punished; the city cannot now say to them, anymore than they could to any other citizen, 'We don’t want your type in our town.' The boldness and breadth of this assertion is virtually without precedent."

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

N.C. Prosecutor to Seek Death Penalty for Vermont Man

Posted By on Wed, Dec 6, 2017 at 4:36 PM

Mikel Brady - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Mikel Brady
North Carolina prosecutors announced Wednesday that they will seek the death penalty for Randolph native Mikel Brady.

Brady, 28, and three other inmates at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City, N.C., were charged with murder after they fatally wounded four prison employees in an October escape attempt, according to news station WTKR-TV.

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Woman Charged in Ricin Case to Remain in Custody

Posted By on Wed, Dec 6, 2017 at 4:14 PM

Wake Robin - GOOGLE
  • Google
  • Wake Robin
The 70-year-old woman who allegedly made ricin at the Wake Robin retirement community in Shelburne has a history of mental health hospitalizations and will remain in federal custody without bail.

The lawyer for Betty Miller did not oppose the government's request to keep her in custody during a hearing Wednesday at U.S. District Court in Burlington.

Paul Volk agreed that his client should remain incarcerated while he searches for a suitable place for Miller to live. He also raised no disagreement after Judge John Conroy referred to Miller as a person with a history of numerous hospitalizations and prior suicide attempts.

Conroy attributed that description to a government document prepared prior to the hearing that argued for Miller to stay behind bars as the case moves forward.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

FBI: Wake Robin Resident Said She Made Toxic Ricin, Fed It to Others

Posted By and on Fri, Dec 1, 2017 at 12:19 PM

Wake Robin - GOOGLE
  • Google
  • Wake Robin
Updated at 5 p.m.

A Wake Robin resident said she made ricin and attempted to poison others who live at the Shelburne retirement community with it, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit filed in court Thursday.

Federal prosecutors have charged Betty Miller, 70, with possession of “an unregistered select agent.”

She was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Burlington on Friday and was being held without bail. Judge John Conroy noted that Miller, who will return to court next Wednesday, has a history of mental illness.

The affidavit states that Miller said she harvested 30 or 40 castor beans from a garden on the property and used instructions she found online to process them into several tablespoons of the powdered poison. When swallowed, ricin can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, bloody urine, hallucinations and seizures.

castor beans - DREAMSTIME
  • Dreamstime
  • castor beans
Miller said she put the powder in food and beverages at the facility on at least three occasions, according to the affidavit, which notes that she “indicated her goal was to injure herself, but she wanted to test the effectiveness of ricin on others.”

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Toxic Poison Found at Shelburne Retirement Community

Posted By on Wed, Nov 29, 2017 at 9:23 AM

Castor beans - DREAMSTIME
  • Dreamstime
  • Castor beans
The FBI is investigating after a highly toxic poison called ricin was discovered Tuesday at Wake Robin, an upscale retirement community in Shelburne.

No individuals appear to have been exposed to the poison, and the potentially contaminated areas have been evacuated, according to a joint press release issued Wednesday morning by the FBI and the Vermont departments of Public Safety and Health. 

"At this time no one from the public is in danger," the press release noted, describing the incident as "isolated."

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