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Vermont Principal Charged With Stealing Lunch Money

Staff Reports
Michael W. Heller is charged with embezzling from Readsboro School.

READSBORO, Vt. — The principal of Readsboro Central School has been charged with stealing kids' lunch money.

Michael W. Heller, 40, of Fairfax, turned himself into state police on Monday after an investigation into missing funds at the school. He has been charged with petit larceny, forgery and embezzlement related to the misuse of more than $4,000 in grant funds and $200 in student lunch money.

Windham Southwest Supervisory Union Superintendent Richard McClements contacted state police on Dec. 19 after a financial audit discovered funds were missing. According to state police, the superintendent's office as well as the Readsboro School Board suspected the school's principal was misappropriating funds.

During his two-year tenure, said state police, Heller had applied for and received grant money for school-related items that he used for hotels, meals and shopping.

When questioned by the School Board, Heller submitted self-manufactured lists of transactions in an attempt to cover his illegal activities, said state police.

During the investigation, state police also interviewed the principal's secretary, who reported an ongoing theft of children's lunch money.  Police say they have sufficient evidence that showed Heller was responsible for taking approximately $200 over a period of time, for his own use, instead of handing it in for the students' lunches.

Heller was processed and released on conditions that include an initial appearance date on Jan. 27 in Vermont District Court in Bennington.

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Vermont Man Goes Missing During Journey to Texas

Staff Reports
READSBORO, Vt. — Police are looking for a local man who failed to arrive at his destination in Texas.
 
Family members contacted police on Thursday, Oct. 26, about Merton J. Powers, 76, of Main Street, who had been expected in Texas by that time. 
 
Powers was last seen near McKay's Auto in Brattleboro operating a silver 2006 Suzuki Forenza bearing Texas registration JNL863. He told the relative that he was heading to Texas, where he has family, according to Detective Sgt. Tyler Burgess.
 
Powers reportedly left the area between Oct. 3 and Oct. 5 and has not been in contact with family since. The concerned family member indicated that Powers reported medical issues that may cause him to become confused and disoriented. 
 
Powers is described as a white male, white hair, blue eyes, and approximately 5-foot-4 feet tall, 145 pounds and wears glasses. 
 
Anyone with any information on Powers is asked to contact the Shaftsbury Barracks at 802-442-5421.
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Vermont Men Held on Sexual Assault Charges

Staff Reports
iBerkshires

READSBORO, Vt. — A local man is being held with two other men on charges of sexual assault of a minor.

Jonathan Deblois, 21, of Readsboro is being held at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield after being charged with sexual assault, lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and furnishing alcohol.

State police say that a 14-year-old girl broke into the Wardsboro Highway Department in the early morning hours of Tuesday, July 23, called 911 and reported she had been assaulted in the town of Wilmington by three men.

She was transported for treatment to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, where a detective trooper interviewed her and confirmed that the alleged assault had occurred in Wilmington.

A joint investigation with Wilmington Police led authorities to an East Main Street residence, where Dennis Pike Jr. resided, and a search warrant was executed.

Pike, 26, and Codie Johnson, 20, of Jacksonville were also both charged with sexual assault, lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and furnishing alcohol. They were both taken to Southern State for lack of bail.

Deblois and Pike are being held on $10,000 bail; Johnson on $5,000.

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North Adams Men Charged After High-Speed Chase

Vermont State Police

READSBORO, Vt. — Two North Adams, Mass., men are facing multiple charges after leading state police on a seven-mile high-speed chase in a stolen car early Tuesday morning and crashing at the intersection of Routes 8 and 100.

Shawn M. Tripodes and Matthew R. Rodriques, both 18, were taken to North Adams Regional Hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening.

The pursuit began with the report of a stolen vehicle, a 2003 Subaru Forester that was later found abandoned later Tuesday morning on Pike Road in Whitingham.

The owner of the vehicle said he saw someone taking the Forester from his Merrifield Road home in Whitingham and heading toward Route 100 at about 1:46 a.m.

Sgt. Jeffrey Trudeau of the Brattleboro barracks was checking Merrifield Road when he spotted what he believed to be a suspicious vehicle, a 2008 Toyota Camry, with Massachusetts plates flipping on its headlights and quickly exiting a driveway. The trooper attempted to pull the car over at about 2:08 a.m.

The vehicle failed to stop and rapidly accelerated southbound on Route 100 toward the town of Readsboro, according to police, and was observed crossing the yellow centerline and traveling at a very high rate of speed.

The Camry led state police through Readsboro toward Stamford and state border. Massachusetts State Police and North Adams Police were notified of the motor vehicle pursuit and direction of travel. Massachusetts State Police responded back that they had taken a report of a stolen Toyota Camry from the town of Florida, Mass.

The Toyota Camry reached speeds in excess of 100 mph as it approached Heartwellville, where it failed to make the sharp corner at the highway junction. It skidded off the roadway and collided with several trees.  

The operator, who was later identified as Tripodes, fled from the vehicle, said police, and a short foot pursuit ensued before he was apprehended. Rodriques was located still in the passenger seat. Neither were wearing seat belts; vehicle is considered a total loss.

Readsboro and Stamford fire departments and North Adams Ambulance responded to the scene to assist. Heartwellville Towing removed the vehicle from the scene.

The Camry was confirmed to be stolen. State police also located a variety of gift cards, credit cards, a Vermont identification card and empty wallets inside the vehicle. Some items were tracked back to a residence on Route 100 in Stamford. The victim was unaware that the items and cash had been stolen during the night from her unlocked vehicle.  

Several other stolen credit cards located are tied to a theft investigation in the town of Adams, Mass.  State police also discovered that the residence that the Toyota Camry had originally fled from on Merrifield Road had been entered. The homeowners, who were home that night, discovered at 6 a.m. that suspects had allegedly entered their attached garage and ransacked their vehicle.

This case is still under investigation.  

Tripodes was processed for operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs and he submitted to a blood test. He was issued a citation to appear at Vermont Superior Court, Windham Criminal Division, to answer to the charges of operating under the influence of drugs, attempting to elude a police officer, grossly negligent operation, and possession of stolen property.

Rodriques was issued a citation to appear in court to answer to the charge of possession of stolen property.

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Alleged Vermont Cat-Killer Pleads Not Guilty

Staff Reports
iBerkshires
READSBORO, Vt. — Accused cat-killer Michael Choquette pleaded not guilty to two counts of aggravated animal cruelty Monday in Vermont District Court in Benningon, according to WCAX.

Choquette, 51, was arrested last week after his tenant reported to police he had killed her 4-year-old cat and dumped it into the outdoor wood furnace. Choquette told police it was an accident and he was trying to hide the body from the cat's owner, Kelly Gancarz.

State police discovered the animal's remains and charged Choquette with felony aggravated animal cruelty. During the investigation they learned of a similar incident with a former tenant's pet.

Police said Amanda Strange told them that her 4-year-old Siamese cat Mischief had been poisoned approximately a year earlier. The cat was allegedly fed rat poison inside Choquette's garage; it was taken to a local animal hospital, where it died from poisoning.

This new felony charge was added to the previous charge of killing Kelly Gancarz's cat on March 11.

Aggravated animal cruelty is when the perpetrator "intentionally kills an animal by means causing the animal undue pain or suffering," according to Vermont law.

Choquette could face up to six years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000.
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