Barton woman given deferred sentence for arson

copyright the Chronicle January 29, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — A Barton woman pled guilty to first degree arson Tuesday in the Orleans Criminal Division of Superior Court.

Rebecca R. Ray, 21, apparently settled the score with an informant who helped police arrest her boyfriend for heroin trafficking — by burning down the informant’s house.

Judge Howard VanBenthuysen deferred sentencing in the case for three years.

Ms. Ray is the girlfriend of Matthew R. Prue, 34, of Barton who, with his brother Louis A. Prue II, 40, of Newport was arrested on July 10 for selling heroin, said Morrisville Detective Jason Luneau.  The brothers were charged with selling 26 grams of heroin in a controlled buy carried out at the Subway in Orleans, he said.

The brothers have each pled innocent to distributing heroin and conspiring to distribute heroin and are awaiting trial in U.S. District Court.

On July 11, the confidential informant who helped in the arrest of the Prue brothers called Detective Luneau and said his house had been burned down the night before.  The house, described as a camp in Brownington, was unoccupied when it was burned.

The informant said his girlfriend’s parents received a threatening text message from Ms. Ray.  The messages, liberally sprinkled with four letter words, accused the informant of betraying a friend and threatened to kill him.

Ms. Ray also left similar voice messages on the phone of the informant’s girlfriend’s parents.

Later on July 11, Detective Luneau spoke with Ms. Ray in Burlington.  She admitted sending the messages, but said she wouldn’t actually kill anyone.

Detective Luneau arrested Ms. Ray for tampering with a witness.  He questioned her after reading her a Miranda warning outlining her rights, and after a time, Ms. Ray admitted burning the informant’s house.

She said she went to the Cumberland Farms store in Newport and bought gasoline, then took it to the informant’s house where she poured it around the living room and on the stairs.

Ms. Ray said she threw a lit piece of paper into the house and watched the fire slowly build.  She left when she knew the blaze would consume the building.

Detective Luneau collected the black Spandex pants and black and pink flip-flops Ms. Ray told him she wore when starting the fire and had them tested.  They were found “to contain materials consistent with the composition of gasoline.”

Detective Luneau was also involved, as part of the Northeastern Vermont Drug Task Force, with the arrest of the Prue brothers.  In his affidavit, he said the informant, who wanted consideration for pending criminal charges, said on July 8 he could buy heroin from Louis Prue.

The informant said he had bought a gram of heroin the day before from Louis Prue, paying $500 for the drugs, Detective Luneau said.

Louis Prue was traveling to Massachusetts and wanted the informant to buy an ounce of heroin for between $6,000 and $7,000 when he returned, the affidavit says.

Detective Luneau said he asked the informant to call Matthew Prue on July 8 to set up a meeting with Louis Prue.  The meeting was arranged for July 9, Detective Luneau said.  A search warrant allowing conversations to be recorded was granted by Judge VanBenthuysen.

On July 9 the informant called Matthew Prue, and after several conversations was told to meet the brothers in the parking lot of the Subway in Orleans, said Detective Luneau.  The informant was given $500 and told to buy a gram of heroin, he said, and a second purchase of an ounce would take place the following day.

The informant was fitted with a wire, and police officers listened in as the two planned the purchase of an ounce for the next day, Detective Luneau said.

On July 10 the informant was given $6,000 in marked bills and told to meet the Prues at the Orleans Park and Ride, Detective Luneau said.

According to the affidavit, officers watched as the informant got out of his car and climbed into the car containing the two Prues.

When the officers heard the informant and Louis Prue exchange phone numbers, they converged on the car and arrested all three occupants, said Detective Prue.  He said the informant had a bag of heroin in his possession.

It was found to contain 26 grams.

Detective Luneau said Louis Prue admitted to selling heroin since April 2013 and said he had worked up to selling about two ounces a week.  He said there was a bit more than an ounce of heroin at his home, Detective Luneau said.

According to the affidavit, Matthew Prue admitted being a heroin user.  He said he had set up four heroin purchases for the confidential informant, Detective Luneau said.

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

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