Murder charges brought in O’Hagan killing

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Keith Baird is brought into the Vermont Superior Court in Caledonia County’s criminal division on Monday to face charges of murder, kidnapping, and burglary.  Photo by Todd Wellington, courtesy of the Caledonian-Record.

Keith Baird is brought into the Vermont Superior Court in Caledonia County’s criminal division on Monday to face charges of murder, kidnapping, and burglary. Photo by Todd Wellington, courtesy of the Caledonian-Record.

copyright the Chronicle March 12, 2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

ST. JOHNSBURY  — Two men have been charged with the murder and kidnapping of Mary Pat O’Hagan, a 78-year-old Sheffield grandmother who was killed three and a half years before the arraignments Monday, to the day.  A third man has been cited.

Keith J. Baird, 33, who is in jail in St. Johnsbury, and Richard Fletcher, 27, who is in jail in Springfield, pled innocent to the charges, which also included burglary, were assigned public defenders, and were sent back to jail and ordered to stay away from 28 specific people, including witnesses, co-defendants, and members of the O’Hagan family.

Michael Norrie, 23, has been cited for the same charges and faces extradition from a prison in Pennsylvania to face the charges.

All three men are from Sheffield.

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Police make arrests in the murder of Pat O’Hagan

Mary Pat O’Hagan was a dedicated community volunteer, mother and grandmother, and organizer of the Sheffield Field Day each Labor Day.  Photo courtesy of the O’Hagan family

Mary Pat O’Hagan was a dedicated community volunteer, mother and grandmother, and organizer of the Sheffield Field Day each Labor Day. Photo courtesy of the O’Hagan family

After three and a half years of investigation by detectives and tips from the public with key information; police said citations were issued in the September 2010 murder of Pat O’Hagan. Richard Fletcher, age 27 of Sheffield, and Keith Baird, age 33 of Sutton (Fletcher’s brother); were both cited for burglary, kidnapping, and first degree murder of Pat O’Hagan. Mr. Baird also faces an additional charge as a habitual offender. Affidavits submitted on Friday, March 7, to the Vermont Superior Court, Caledonia Criminal Division were accepted for probable cause. An arrest warrant has been granted for the arrest of Michael Norrie, age 23 of St. Johnsbury who is being charged with burglary, kidnapping, and first degree murder.

Keith Baird is currently being held at the Northeast Regional Correctional
Center in St. Johnsbury for a lack of bail on multiple counts of violations
of conditions of release, habitual offender, and violations of an abuse
prevention order. Richard Fletcher is a Vermont inmate housed at a
correctional facility in Kentucky; although he was recently brought back to
Vermont and is being held at southern Vermont facility center in
Springfield serving a sentence for sexual exploitation of a minor. Michael
Norrie is serving a sentence in federal jail in Pennsylvania on federal gun
crimes.

Baird and Fletcher will be arraigned on the above listed charges on Monday, March 10, 2014, at 12:30PM. The arrest warrant obtained for Norrie will start the process of his extradition back to Vermont.

Pat O’Hagan was last seen on September 10, 2010. Her body was found nearly four weeks later on Horn Road in Wheelock, Vermont, on October 3, 2010; approximately ten miles from her home at 3064 Route 122 in Sheffield.

The Vermont State Police extend their appreciation to the Sheffield
community, Vermonters, and the media for their help and dedication in
keeping Pat O’Hagan’s memory alive.

Questions regarding the case should be directed to the Caledonia County
State’s Attorney. – from Vermont State Police.

To read a related story from past coverage, click here.

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In Newport City: Morrissette elected as alderman

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Neil Morrissette.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Neil Morrissette. Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle 3-5-2014

NEWPORT—Newport has a new alderman.  Voters went to the polls Tuesday and elected Neil Morrissette to replace former council member Tim de la Bruere who decided not to stand for re-election.

They also returned incumbent Alderman John Wilson for another two-year term, his seventh.  Mr. Wilson led all candidates with 369 votes, Mr. Morrissette had 286 and Corey Therrien finished out of the money with 225 votes.

Mr. Therrien did not go home empty handed, though.  Running unopposed, he won election to an open seat on the North Country Union High School board with 388 votes.

No candidates submitted petitions for a vacant seat on the Newport City School Board, but two citizens ran write-in campaigns.  With 31 votes Mary Ellen Prairie squeaked in ahead of Jacques Roberge, who garnered 19 votes.

Newport voters exhibited their usual generosity, approving all appropriation requests by wide margins.

The city budget request of $3-million was granted by a vote of 354 to 125.  The Newport City Elementary School’s budget had a narrower margin of victory, but it still passed, 279 to 214.

City voters also approved the North Country Union High School and North Country Union Junior High School budgets.

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

To read all 20 Town Meeting stories, pick up the paper or subscribe to our digital edition.

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OCSU board picks new superintendent

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Bruce Labs.  Photo by Richard Creaser

Bruce Labs. Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle February 26, 2014

by Richard Creaser

The Orleans Central Supervisory Union (OCSU) school board has tendered an offer to a new superintendent.

The name is not yet being released pending the candidate’s acceptance, but two final candidates were interviewed in public Tuesday afternoon.  A decision was made after the interviews and a lengthy executive session.

On Tuesday evening OCSU school board chairman Amy Leroux of Irasburg confirmed that the board has tendered an offer to someone to replace Stephen Urgenson.  The two candidates are Bruce Labs of Piermont, New Hampshire, and Don Van Nostrand of Concord.  Ms. Leroux said after an offer is accepted and a final vetting process by the state Agency of Education is done an announcement will be made, probably by week’s end.

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In Newport: An inside look at a chance for redemption

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Terry Collins, Isobel Marks and Ed Brochu (left to right) discuss the contents of Damion’s contract with him (back to camera).  “The most important thing is to show respect,” Ms. Marks said.  “I don’t think the offenders expect that, they think they’re going to be punished for being bad people.”  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Terry Collins, Isobel Marks and Ed Brochu (left to right) discuss the contents of Damion’s contract with him (back to camera). “The most important thing is to show respect,” Ms. Marks said. “I don’t think the offenders expect that, they think they’re going to be punished for being bad people.” Photo by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle February 19, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — A slight man with dark hair and a neatly trimmed beard walked into a small room at the Community Justice Center here and looked around at the three people who, in the course of an hour’s conversation, could help shape his future.

Walter Medwid, coordinator of Newport’s reparative justice system, had already met Damion (for the sake of privacy, only offenders’ first names are used in this story).  He shook his hand and introduced him to Ed Brochu, Isobel Marks, and Terry Collins, who also greeted the young man warmly.

Having pled guilty in November to unlawful trespass in an occupied dwelling, Damion was reporting to a reparative board, one of the less-heralded parts of Vermont’s criminal justice system.

The reparative justice program is intended to repair the damage to the community that a crime causes, and to persuade the person who committed the act to accept responsibility and make amends.  The program is also designed to let the offender know that, once those goals are reached, he or she is again in the community’s good graces.  It’s intended primarily for first-time lawbreakers who commit non-violent offenses.

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Jay Peak’s plans for rec center remain in limbo

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Jay Peak Resort hopes to build this recreation center on the ski area’s Stateside.  The front entrance is planned to be 14 feet tall and face the Stateside parking area.  The back wall of the metal-faced building would be 22 feet tall and face Route 242.  Inside, the proposed center would have climbing walls, a movie theater, arcade games, and a horizontal ropes course.  Image courtesy of Jay Peak Resort

Jay Peak Resort hopes to build this recreation center on the ski area’s Stateside. The front entrance is planned to be 14 feet tall and face the Stateside parking area. The back wall of the metal-faced building would be 22 feet tall and face Route 242. Inside, the proposed center would have climbing walls, a movie theater, arcade games, and a horizontal ropes course. Image courtesy of Jay Peak Resort

copyright the Chronicle February 12, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

JAY—Jay Peak Resort’s plan to build a recreation center with a 145-seat movie theater and climbing walls remains in limbo.  The Jay Planning Commission and Zoning Board (two bodies with one set of members) tabled the application Monday night until March 10.

The commission came out of a deliberative session that lasted an hour and a half to express its dissatisfaction with the area’s provisions for parking for the new facility and concern about the building’s effect on the views along Route 242.

The planning commission met Monday night to reconsider the project, which had been refused a permit based on parking and public safety concerns after it was first presented in January.

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Farm bill passes U.S. Senate

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Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle February 5, 2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

The federal farm bill passed the U.S. Senate Tuesday, 68 to 32.

The bill includes a key provision for dairy farmers, called a Margin Protection Plan.  Similar to crop insurance, it allows farmers to buy into a plan that will protect their prices should the federal milk price normally paid to them drop, or should their production costs rise dramatically.

A statement from U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy says the hoped-for supply management plan that was in the Senate version of the bill was stripped out.  But as a member of the conference committee, Senator Leahy was able to make a change that will help smaller dairy farmers more than large corporate farms.

Small farms will be able to enroll at lower rates and get higher protection, the statement explains.

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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.

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War on Poverty: Fifty years later schools are the battleground

Lisa Grout is a social studies teacher at North Country Union High School in Newport.  She has a perspective on both poverty and how poverty affects student outcomes.  Photo by Richard Creaser

Lisa Grout is a social studies teacher at North Country Union High School in Newport. She has a perspective on both poverty and how poverty affects student outcomes. Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle January 22, 2014

Editor’s note:  The following story is the first in a two-part series on the link between poverty and success in school.

by Richard Creaser

On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared in his State of the Union Address an “all-out war on human poverty and unemployment in these United States.”

Fifty years later, the war rages on with the nation’s public schools as the battleground in this epic struggle.

“As a history teacher, I just can’t help but see that this isn’t anything new,” said Lisa Grout, a social studies teacher at North Country Union High School.  “At times, it has been described as a racial divide, but really it’s something else — it isn’t a war on poverty, it’s a war on the poor.  We need to rid ourselves of this myth that anyone can do whatever they want to do if they really want it.  Our system just isn’t balanced evenly that way.”

In fact, the system appears to be heavily weighted against students from poor families.

A direct link between low household income and student achievement is known in the educational system as the achievement gap.  The evidence is most readily appreciated by examining student performance on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) scores as tabulated by the Vermont Agency of Education.  Agency data for the reporting period of 2011-2012 for North Country is especially telling, although it’s important to consider that NECAP tests are only administered to juniors at the high school level.

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UTG reject Seneca Wind

copyright the Chronicle January 15, 2014

by Paul Lefebvre

FERDINAND — Community opposition in three of the most remote northern towns of the Northeast Kingdom have shut the door on hosting what would have been the third industrial wind project planned for the region’s ridgelines.

On Monday, the Unified Towns and Gores (UTG) joined Brighton and Newark in rejecting a proposal to build a ridgeline wind project on Seneca Mountain.

The decision came on the strength of a referendum mailed to property owners, whose ballots were counted in the UTG office in Ferdinand Monday night.

By a margin of 171 to 107, voters rejected the project and left little choice but for the UTG five-member board of governors to follow suit.

“The board has agreed to support the vote, and that’s what we intend to do,” said Chairman Barbara Nolan, after the results of the vote were announced.

There was also little room to maneuver for Eolian Renewable Energy, the company that had been spearheading a project that came to be known as Seneca Mountain Wind (SMW).  The company had repeatedly vowed that the project would rise or fall on the results of the vote.

“We are committed to abide by the local vote,” said a disappointed John Soininen, a company vice-president who was present during the counting of the ballots.

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