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”

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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”

White River Junction Mourns Town ‘Mayor’

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

White River Junction — As downtown bustled on Saturday, with Glory Days in one corner, the Main Street Museum’s Bizarre Bazaar in another, and the block humming with pedestrians, the bench in front of the yarn shop often sat empty.

It was a favorite seat of Lewis Lahaye — better known as Louie — a reliable sight in White River Junction who could often be found wearing his signature beanie and sunglasses and who was known for his ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. An Upper Valley native and resident of the Vermonter Hotel downtown, his friendliness earned him the nickname the “Mayor of Hartford.”

“He was the town’s grandfather, pretty much,” said village resident Graham Robinson, 32. “Everybody loved him.” Continue reading “White River Junction Mourns Town ‘Mayor’”

Owners Mourn Slain Dog After He Was Shot by an Officer During a Dog Fight

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Hartford — The owners of a dog say an off-duty Hartford police officer was out of line this weekend when he shot and killed their pet at a public park after a fight broke out between the 2-year-old pit bull and one of the officer’s two huskies.

Cheryl Gray, 44, who took the slain dog named Diesel on one of their regular visits to the Watson Upper Valley Dog Park in Hartford on Saturday, said the two dogs tussled after one husky lunged toward Diesel from atop a picnic table while the officer, Logan Scelza, was using his phone on a bench about 15 yards away.

She acknowledged Diesel “had (the red husky) by the neck.” Gray said Scelza ran over, tried to pull the dogs apart before firing three “warning” shots into the ground and then shooting Diesel four times — once in the face and three times in the chest.

There were about a dozen other people, including a 4-year-old girl, in the dog park at the time of the shooting.

“I can’t get it out of my head at all,” a distraught Gray said through tears on Monday. “It was unnecessary force.” Continue reading “Owners Mourn Slain Dog After He Was Shot by an Officer During a Dog Fight”

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”

Daughter: ‘He Didn’t Deserve It’; Suspect in Fatal Springfield, Vt., Shooting Pleads Not Guilty

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

White River Junction — A 30-year-old man who eluded police for five days pleaded not guilty on Friday to a charge of second-degree murder in the shooting death of a father of four in Springfield, Vt., last weekend.

Gregory A. Smith, acting through his public defender at Windsor Superior Court, waived his right to bail arguments until a hearing to assess the weight of the evidence against him can be scheduled.

Smith was returned to Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield. Smith and a girlfriend were arrested Thursday. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

A warrant had been issued last weekend for Smith’s arrest on charges he killed Wesley Wing, 37, who was shot on South Street near his apartment Saturday night and succumbed to his injuries at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center early Sunday morning.

Following Friday’s court procedures, one of Wing’s daughters, Casey, said she wants justice for her father.

“He was just the best person I knew,” said Casey Wing, 15. “He didn’t deserve it. He didn’t deserve any of this.”  Continue reading “Daughter: ‘He Didn’t Deserve It’; Suspect in Fatal Springfield, Vt., Shooting Pleads Not Guilty”

Police Destroy ‘Pipe Bombs’; Raid Leads to Controlled Detonations, Two Arrests

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Hartford — The Vermont State Police Bomb Squad detonated two “pipe bombs” following a raid at a Gifford Road home on Friday and police have charged a man and a woman with multiple drug offenses.

Police have not said what led to the raid, which occurred just down the street from Hartford High School. Kyle Fellows, 52, of Hartford, and Samantha Caldwell, 31, of Windsor, were arrested at the home, where a large quantity of crack cocaine, bath salts, methamphetamine and 2 pounds of explosives were seized during the execution of a search warrant, according to a statement from the Hartford Police Department.  Continue reading “Police Destroy ‘Pipe Bombs’; Raid Leads to Controlled Detonations, Two Arrests”

Woodstock Woman Says Horses Weren’t Neglected

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

White River Junction — The owner of a South Woodstock farm where police removed a herd of allegedly malnourished horses pleaded not guilty on Friday to 10 counts of animal cruelty.

Marjatta Lavin, 63, of Skyland Arabians, was released on conditions that she stay away from the property where her 23 animals are being boarded and refrain from purchasing or possessing any horses.

Following the hearing at Windsor Superior Court, Lavin said she “categorically” denied the allegations against her, referring to several ailments and personal setbacks in recent years that have inhibited her care of the horses while also disputing that they were unhealthy.

“I’m not a neglectful person at all and have never been,” she said.  Continue reading “Woodstock Woman Says Horses Weren’t Neglected”

Shooting Victim Speaks Out

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

Newport — Police are trying to determine whether a Laurel Street homeowner was justified when he shot his son-in-law at his front door.

Meanwhile, the son-in-law said in an interview that he was trying to return his wife’s purse to her following an argument earlier in the day and was looking for a place to leave it on the porch.

“The door was never opened; (I) never tried to open it,” said Jay Handy, 27, who remains hospitalized with a gunshot to his midsection.  Continue reading “Shooting Victim Speaks Out”

Hartford Man Pleads Not Guilty in Death of Girlfriend’s Son

By Maggie Cassidy
Valley News Staff Writer

White River Junction — A 31-year-old Hartford man pleaded not guilty on Thursday to a charge of second-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend’s young son last summer.

At the end of the arraignment, a judge ordered Luke Theriault held without bail pending an evidence hearing , expected within about 10 days.

Theriault, who has spent most of his life in the Upper Valley, was living with his girlfriend and her 2-year-old son, Jamaal Jayden Turkvan, when the toddler was found unresponsive in their Bugbee Street apartment on the morning of July 4, 2013.  Continue reading “Hartford Man Pleads Not Guilty in Death of Girlfriend’s Son”