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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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Readsboro Man Charged With Animal Cruelty

Staff Reports
iBerkshires
READSBORO, Vt. — A local man has been charged with aggravated animal cruelty for allegedly killing a cat and burning it to hide the fact from its owner.

Michael Choquette, 51,  of Route 100 was arrested and charged Tuesday by state police.

The cat's owner, Kelly Gancarz, 37, contacted police after Choquette, her landlord, allegedly called her on Monday night and admitted to killing the 4-year-old animal. Gancarz lives in an apartment above Choquette .

According to Gancarz, she heard her other cat, Dizzy, crying outside in distress late Sunday night. When she went outside, she saw Choquette standing at the outside wood boiler. She believed Dizzy was upset because it could hear the other cat.

The next day, she looked in the boiler and said she found the remains of the animal. State Trooper Robert Zink investigated the claim and confirmed the remains of a small cat were in the boiler.

According to police, Choquette admitted to killing the cat but claimed he threw a piece of fire wood at it just to scare it. "He stated that he put the cat in the wood boiler in order to not have to deal with backlash from Gancarz," the police report states.

He will appear in Vermont District Court in Bennington on Monday, March 19. Animal cruelty is a felony charge.
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Vermont Police Investigating Double Fatal Shooting

Staff Reports
iBerkshires
READSBORO, Vt. — State police are investigating a double fatal shooting that occurred early Saturday.

Police say Benjamin Birch, 39, of Readsboro was killed in a hunting accident near Howe Pond. Birch was reportedly chasing a deer with two other hunters when one of his companions, Timothy Bolognani, accidently shot him. Bolognani, 49, of Readsboro, was so distraught, said police, he used his rifle to take his own life.

Police and ambulance personnel originally responded to a report of one injured man, then two men, discovered at a camp in the small town. Unconfirmed reports had said there were two men, one in his 20s and the other in 40s, both dead of gunshot wounds.

This is the second tragedy in barely a year for the Bolognani family. Timothy Bolognani's 18-year-old daughter, Jessica, was killed in a snowmobile accident last January. Bolognani is the son of Betty Bolognani, former state representative.

While accidental, this is also the second double-fatality connected to guns in the last year in Readsboro. On Dec. 2, 2010, 47-year-old Robert Finley shot and killed his father, James Finley, 69, before turning the gun on himself in a domestic fight.

No further information was immediately available.

Updated and rewritten throughout, 11 p.m., Nov. 26.

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Readsboro Teen Killed in Snowmobile Accident

Staff Reports

READSBORO, Vt. — A Readsboro teen died Saturday night after being struck by a snowmobile during a party on private property about a mile off Route 100.

The office of the state's attorney is investigating the circumstances surrounding the accident that lead to the death of 18-year-old Jessica Bolognani. The accident was reported at about 10:30 p.m.

According to state police, Bolognani was riding on the back of a 2009 Polaris snowmobile operated by a Richard Bernard, 20, of Whitingham when she fell and was hit by a second snowmobile that was following, a 2001 Polaris being operated by 21-year-old Clinton Birch of Readsboro.

Bolognani was wearing a helmet but sustained a serious head injury and died of her injuries before she arrived at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington. She was pronounced dead by the regional medical examiner's office.

A group of young adults were at the camp when Bernard, Bolognani and Birch left the camp to go snowmobiling, said police, and alcohol was involved.

Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage ordered an autopsy on Bolognani by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington on Monday.

The investigation into the incident is continuing; anyone with information is asked to call Sgt. Mike Marvin or Trooper Travis Hess at the state police barracks in Shaftsbury at 802-442-5421. 

Bolognani was a star athlete who graduated from Twin Valley High School in Wilmington in June. She was majoring in health sciences at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Both college and high school classmates recalled a friendly, helpful, generous young woman on a Facebook page dedicated to her. "The whole entire town is in total devastation, she was adored by all," wrote one longtime family friend.

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Fire Devours Readsboro Home

By Tammy Daniels

A house at 244 Vermont Route 8 was destroyed by an early morning fire. No one was home at the time.

READSBORO, Vt. —  An early morning fire destroyed a unoccupied home along the sparsely settled Route 8 in Heartwellville on Wednesday.

The blaze was called in at 3 a.m. by a motorist who saw flames coming from the single-family home, said Fire Chief Carl Marchegiani. "[The firehouse] is four miles away but we could see the glow in the sky as we came over the flats."

By the time firefighters arrived, the house was fully involved. Whitingham and Stamford fire departments responded to the scene as well and tankers shuttled back and forth from a nearby water source as firefighters battled the blaze in the frigid temperatures.

The two-story home at 244 Vt. Route 8 is owned by Richard A. Larabee, who is currently residing in South Carolina, said Marchegiani. A family member was keeping an eye on the residence.

Smoke was still spilling from the house's smoldering remains early in Wednesday afternoon. Marchegiani said the fire is believed to have started somewhere under the eaves but its cause may never be known because the damage to the structure was so exentensive.

"I can't let anybody in there," he said. "It's too dangerous."

The fire burned so hot it distorted and collapsed the metal roof; ice coated the charred studs and the remains of a spring mattress hung from what was left of a second-floor joist. The stone chimney had buckled in the middle, giving it a curved appearance. Icicles dripped from an elderly Toyota Land Cruiser in the front yard.

Marchegiani said the house would have to be demolished soon. "It's too dangerous to leave it like this."

 

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