Upper Valley Contingent Travels to D.C. March to Make Their Voices Heard

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Washington, D.C. — After Ruth Heindel and Carissa Aoki had listened to speakers at the Women’s March on Washington for four hours outside the Air and Space Museum on Saturday, the Dartmouth College graduate and post-doctoral ecology students became ecstatic when they learned that organizers were changing the route.

It wasn’t the last-minute change they celebrated, but the reason: The event had drawn so many marchers that they were already filling up the route. They would have to add some new twists and turns to give marchers room to walk.

“This felt like a really big deal,” Heindel, 28, said at the march’s conclusion. “To feel like I was one of the people in one of those enormous historical photos … and that it was made up of all these individuals.”  Continue reading “Upper Valley Contingent Travels to D.C. March to Make Their Voices Heard”

Grape Catch Is Feat for the Ages

Story by Maggie Cassidy. Video shot and edited by Maggie Cassidy.

Post Mills — Setting the world record for using your mouth to catch a grape dropped from the greatest height: It was a dream years in the making, and all it took was a hot air balloon, walnut-sized fruits shipped specially from Georgia and a crew of Ph.D.-level engineers who gathered at a tiny Vermont airport before the sun rose on Monday morning.

The man with the plan was Brent Fraser, 35, who said he “just had a natural knack” for catching things in his mouth ever since his high school days in Barre, Vt., where buddies would chuck food toward him in the school parking lot. Continue reading “Grape Catch Is Feat for the Ages”

Farm Crews Take a Few Hours Off for ‘Olympics’

Story by Maggie Cassidy. Video shot and edited by Maggie Cassidy.

Vershire — Spread out across a hayfield at Broad Acres Farm late Tuesday afternoon, dozens of farmers in teams of five, give or take, waited for the countdown over a megaphone — three, two, one, go! — before frantically installing sections of single-strand fence in square areas marked by small orange flags.

While the 31st Summer Olympics were ongoing in Rio de Janeiro (population 6.32 million), the second annual Farmer Olympics, put on by the Northeast Organic Farming Association, were just getting started in Vershire (population 679).

And right out of the gate, some teams were having a harder time than others.

“We do not have cows!” cried out a farmer from Springtail Farm, in Washington, Vt., as that crew struggled with the lines.

“We’re a seed farm!” hollered another teammate. 

Continue reading “Farm Crews Take a Few Hours Off for ‘Olympics’”

Windsor Police Delete Report on Bar Fight Involving Officer

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Windsor — It was a typical Friday evening in Windsor on Dec. 5, 2014, as snow blanketed downtown. Inside the Windsor Station Restaurant & Barroom, the scene was bustling.

Among the patrons were William “Billy” Henne III, a longtime Windsor resident whose minor run-ins with the law had made him known to local police, and Windsor Police Chief William Sampson, a Massachusetts native who worked in Florida law enforcement for years before returning north four months earlier to become Windsor’s top cop.

Also present was another longtime Windsor resident, Windsor police Officer Ryan Palmer, who three weeks before had shot White River Junction resident Jose Burgos during a drug sting.

Both Palmer and Sampson were off-duty, having walked over together after a holiday party with town employees. Sampson said he had a beer or two. Henne was drinking, according to police reports. Palmer’s beverage of choice that night was ginger ale, the bartender told police.

On all those points, there seems to be no dispute. But determining what happened when Palmer and Henne had a brief scuffle around midnight would result in two investigations by Windsor police and a third one by state police.  Continue reading “Windsor Police Delete Report on Bar Fight Involving Officer”

Victim Speaks Out Against Attacker at Sentencing

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

White River Junction — In a powerful victim’s impact statement read while his family wept and consoled each other in the courtroom, a 27-year-old Vermont man told his abuser that the man had “murdered (his) soul,” but that he would persevere through the alleged yearslong sexual trauma that he said started at age 12.

“As difficult as life is for me from day to day, I will not give you the satisfaction of dying,” the victim, Jeff Wyman, said at Thursday’s sentencing hearing for 45-year-old Brett Bartolotta. “I have good qualities, and I will continue to find and nurture those qualities.”

In 2013, Bartolotta, who was living in Cavendish, Vt., was one of two men charged with aggravated sexual assault and slave trafficking, felonies punishable by up to life in prison, in relation to the alleged abuse. The other man, Frank Meyer, of Connecticut, died by suicide days after the charges were filed.

Minutes after Wyman finished his statement in Windsor Superior Court, though — and after Bartolotta offered an apology that the judge deemed “not satisfactory” — Bartolotta walked out of the courtroom and left the courthouse through a side door, while Wyman’s brothers, overcome by emotion, shouted in the streets.  Continue reading “Victim Speaks Out Against Attacker at Sentencing”

Different Points of View on Thetford ‘Wall’

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Thetford — Ruth Dwyer refers to it as a temporary “curtain.”

Some townspeople have taken to calling it the Green Monster, or in Selectman Donn Downey’s words, “The Great Wall of Dwyer.”

Thetford zoning officials, meanwhile, have determined the structure — forest-green shade cloth strung across five large wooden utility poles along Sawnee Bean Road — is a “wall” and therefore out of compliance until it goes through a permitting process, which is now underway.

Dwyer had the 60-foot-by-24-foot partition constructed to block the view of a newly built house that she said offends her sensibilities.

“You know the saying, ‘Good fences make good neighbors,’ ” Selectman Mike Pomeroy said this week. “In this case, good fences are making bad neighbors.”  Continue reading “Different Points of View on Thetford ‘Wall’”

Contentious in Cornish: Outraged Residents Bombard School Board

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Cornish — Pandemonium erupted when the School Board chairman announced that he would not allow public comment at the board’s meeting Tuesday night, even as the audience of nearly 100 demanded the chance to speak on the controversy surrounding a board member’s social media post. Continue reading “Contentious in Cornish: Outraged Residents Bombard School Board”

Vermont Amber Alert Ends With Mother’s Arrest in Lyme

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Lyme — A 49-year-old mother is awaiting extradition to face felony charges in Vermont, where authorities allege she abducted her biological son from his foster family near Bennington before transporting him to the Upper Valley, where she was apprehended Monday night.

An Amber Alert was issued around 8:30 p.m. for 12-year-old Zachary Lee after his foster family reported he had not arrived home from his school bus drop-off on Monday in Sunderland, Vt.

Hanover Police arrested the boy’s mother, Patricia Kane, at the Lyme Inn around 11:30 p.m. on Monday after following up on a tip from someone who reported seeing Kane, her teenage daughter and Zachary dining together at the Canoe Club in downtown Hanover earlier that evening. Continue reading “Vermont Amber Alert Ends With Mother’s Arrest in Lyme”

Perriello Gets 35 Years to Life; Sentence Is Harshest Possible For Man Who Killed Wife

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Newport — James W. Perriello received the maximum sentence for the shooting death of his wife, teacher Natalie Perriello, following a heart-wrenching hearing on Wednesday where the oldest of the couple’s four children confronted her father for the first time since the murder, and Perriello apologized for what he had done.

More than 40 people crowded into Sullivan Superior Court where Natalie Perriello’s friends and family took turns giving statements about the impact her death has had on their lives, and none was more powerful than the one delivered by 14-year-old Jillian Perriello, who read an open letter to her father as he sat with his head hung low at the nearby defense table.

“Dear Dad, I still hear them, the bangs, the booms, the crashes, the shots,” Jillian said.

It was the first time since his arrest that James Perriello had seen any of his children, who were all at home in Grantham at the time of the April 2012 shooting.

“The words, the shouts, the crying, the footsteps,” Jillian continued. “The rain pounding down the window. The sirens.

“I still see them. … The two frantic boys across the hall. The petrified look on your face. … The flashing lights. … The Mickey Mouse comforter that still snuggles my body at night.” Continue reading “Perriello Gets 35 Years to Life; Sentence Is Harshest Possible For Man Who Killed Wife”

Thursday Is the New Black: No Rest for Workers, Shoppers as Big Box Stores Open on Thanksgiving

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

West Lebanon — Box store spokespersons said consumers have demanded it. A workers’ rights advocate called it “a sad state of affairs.” And shoppers out on Route 12A Thursday said they’re grateful for the convenience — but maybe enough is enough.

Black Friday continued its slow take over of the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, when at least two of the Upper Valley shopping mecca’s box stores were open by 7 a.m., and another batch opened to long lines in the early evening.

Most kept their doors open overnight, with no plans to close them until tonight, meaning they were open for as many as 41 consecutive hours.

“My kids were asking me, ‘Mom, I thought that Black Friday was supposed to be on Friday?’, ” said Nicole Scrimgeour, of St. Johnsbury, on Thursday afternoon.

She was standing in a tent that she had set up outside Best Buy around 4 a.m. Continue reading “Thursday Is the New Black: No Rest for Workers, Shoppers as Big Box Stores Open on Thanksgiving”