Swastikas, racist slogans sprayed on local roads and buildings

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copyright the Chronicle September 13, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

GLOVER — Swastikas, racist epithets, and crudely drawn penises were spray painted on road surfaces, mailboxes, and the side of a farm building in Glover sometime during the night of September 7.

The incident prompted a GoFundMe campaign, which was started on Monday by Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm. It raised $4,535 in less than 24 hours toward a reward to help catch the perpetrators.

Jasper Hill is one of the owners of Andersonville Farm in West Glover. A building there was defaced with “get out” and “nigger” along with a hashtag, a swastika, and a Nazi SS symbol.

About ten feet of pavement on the Shadow Lake Road was co-opted for a swastika and the message “I kill niggers.” Sexual drawings and slogans were painted in the oncoming lane.

A swastika was painted on a stop sign at the intersection of Shadow Lake Road and Mud Island Road. A mailbox in that area was defaced with swastikas on one side and the word “nig” on the other. Another mailbox had swastikas, the twin lightning-bolt SS symbol, and a sexual reference.

Law enforcement is handling the incident as unlawful mischief.

A joint press release from the Vermont State Police and the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department says, “Sometime after dark on September 7, 2017, the offender(s) spray painted on the side of a barn, the roadway, mailboxes and posts.”

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Broken family wants case resolved

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copyright the Chronicle September 13, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

When Katrina McCullough of Newport called police last December and accused her husband of bending her fingers back, she had no idea what the consequences of her actions would turn out to be.

Today she finds herself in danger of losing her house and faces severe economic challenges despite having a good job. Ryan McCullough, her husband, lives in a homeless shelter for veterans in Norwich, and the couple’s children see their father only rarely.

Because Orleans County Superior Court has a heavy backlog of cases awaiting trial, the McCulloughs will not see a resolution until January at the earliest.

Ms. McCullough says she was in the clutches of severe mental distress when she dialed the phone in December. Knowing what she does now, she strongly regrets making that call.

Mr. McCullough is facing misdemeanor and felony charges of domestic abuse and, despite filing a speedy trial motion in June, is not scheduled for trial until January.

He had been scheduled for trial in August, but the court schedule was changed and he must now wait an additional five months for resolution.

As a result, Ms. McCullough said in a recent interview, her husband is in the shelter while she and her two daughters are facing the prospect of losing the family house for lack of money to pay the mortgage. Mr. McCullough, a veteran who has struggled with PTSD, cannot stay in the shelter past January and will be homeless in winter if the situation is not resolved by then, his wife said.

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Hemp is hot new agricultural venture

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copyright the Chronicle September 13, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

EAST BURKE — “Welcome to history,” said Eli Harrington, one of the organizers of Vermont Hemp Fest 2017, held over the weekend at the Burke Mountain Hotel and Conference Center. He’s also co-founder and editor of Heady Vermont, an online magazine and podcast for fans of the hemp plant — cannabis — in all its forms.

It was standing room only at Hemp Fest, a get together mostly for people interested in producing and marketing agricultural hemp. There were speakers from all over the country, evening “hempy hours” and entertainment, and a chance to try and buy hemp-based products ranging from clothing to food and supplements.

Mr. Harrington believes the three-day gathering over the weekend just might be the first time that a cannabis event has occurred at a ski resort.

Speakers took care to clarify that they were there to talk about growing hemp for food, fiber, and medicine.

People traveled from all over and paid admission to get the latest information on growing, refining, and marketing legal hemp products.

“What we’re looking for is a Vermont product with a national market,” Mr. Harrington said.

But many also expressed hope that, after marijuana and hemp are both fully legalized, the tent will be big enough to welcome the full spectrum of cannabis products.

Outside the building, it was obvious from the wafting smoke that some of the pre-conference write-ups about “ganjapreneurship” and “free Maryjane” had drawn their own audience.

Hemp and marijuana are pretty much the same plant. But marijuana gets its kick from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound that also boasts a variety of medical uses.

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Remembering those who died at their own hand

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copyright the Chronicle September 13, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Matt Chaput said he doesn’t keep track of how long it’s been since his brother Shawn took his own life.

“Four or five years,” was his estimate.

His imprecision is not because he doesn’t care. His brother is never far from his thoughts, and remains close to him physically as well.

Mr. Chaput rolled up his sleeve Saturday morning and showed the startlingly life-like portrait of his brother he had tattooed onto his left forearm.

He was among the more than 200 people who walked through Newport Saturday to commemorate those who died by their own hand, and to do what they can to spare others the sorrow they feel at the loss of loved ones.

Many wore shirts showing who inspired them to participate in Newport’s sixth annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk. Mr. Chaput and many of his friends and family members sported bright blue shirts that read “Team Shawn.” Others wore yellow T-shirts indicating they were part of Team Donnelly, and another team had orange shirts printed with a drawing of a halo and a pair of angels’ wings with the words “in loving memory of Don Cota.”

The walk is sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It raises money to pay for programs intended to educate the public about the toll suicide takes on the community, and to help people experiencing dark and dangerous episodes come out alive on the other side.

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Students raise thousands for Harvey victims

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copyright the Chronicle September 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

Two Irasburg sisters who made their way to Houston, Texas, to pursue teaching careers came through Hurricane Harvey with their homes intact, but they and their students will be dealing with the devastation wrought by the storm for months if not years.

Chris Eldridge-Grant and Amy Eldridge-Green, who both work for the Klein Independent School District, also inspired an effort in the North Country Supervisory Union (NCSU) schools Monday that raised at least $4,100 for those affected by flooding. According to Liz Butterfield of NCSU, which sponsored “T-shirt Tuesday” to encourage donations, that amount will rise when the money has all been counted Wednesday.

The Klein district is one of two in the Spring area of northwestern Houston. Ms. Eldridge-Grant teaches English at one of the district’s five high schools.

Spring is a diverse community, Ms. Eldridge-Green said. She teaches English as a second language as part of her duties. She said nearly 120 languages are spoken by people who live in the community.

“Natural disaster is the great equalizer,” she said.

Even the more affluent neighborhoods were hit by the storm, she said, and the flooding destroyed many, many vehicles.

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NCSU continues opposition to Act 46

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copyright the Chronicle September 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — After attending a Vermont Superintendents Association meeting on August 30, John Castle, who oversees the North Country Supervisory Union, took off for the woods. He said Monday that he wanted to take time to get away from it all. “All” definitely includes Act 46, he said.

Mr. Castle said state officials, including Governor Phil Scott, Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, and the heads of the House and Senate education committees took part in the Superintendents Association meeting. Representative Dave Sharpe of Bristol, who chairs the House Committee on Education, predicted a six- to ten-cent increase in the education property tax rate next year, but Mr. Castle said most of those present appeared pleased by how Act 46 has worked so far.

The law, which presses local school districts to combine into much larger ones, has been on the minds of many superintendents over the past couple of years. That pressure includes the offer of tax reductions for districts that vote early to merge.

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E-bikes a big draw at Craftsbury electric vehicle event

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copyright the Chronicle September 6, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

CRAFTSBURY COMMON — “It’s like the hand of God reaches down and pushes you along,” Larry Gilbert said.

Mr. Gilbert’s playful description of what it’s like to ride an electric bicycle was pretty much spot on.

In the beginning, the electric bike feels heavy and awkward. It weighs about twice as much as an ordinary bicycle, and it has big, fat, heavily ribbed tires that don’t exactly turn on a dime.

But halfway around the first turn of the pedals, the battery assist kicked in and the bike leapt forward as though pushed from behind by an unseen hand.

It was a little unnerving at first.

Mr. Gilbert, the owner of ZoomBikes in Montpelier, was offering electric bicycle rides at the Craftsbury Farmers Market on Saturday morning.

E-bikes have a battery powered assist that makes them move along with far less effort on the part of the rider than an ordinary bike.

That makes e-bikes an option for people with bad knees or other physical challenges.   And it makes them great for shopping or commuting, especially when hills are involved.

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The social side of death

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copyright the Chronicle September 6, 2017

by Elizabeth Trail

 

CRAFTSBURY COMMON — “We’re only guaranteed two things,” Anne-Marie Keppel told the small crowd that turned out for a Death Café at the library on August 31. “The fact that we are alive right now in this instant — and that we’re going to die.”

Talking openly about death is pretty much taboo in our society. Even people who want to talk about it may likely find that friends and family don’t want to hear.

So Death Cafés were created to give people a safe place to talk about life’s greatest certainty, usually with a group of strangers.

Last week’s group ran the gamut from nine Sterling College students at the younger end, to an elderly man there with his 20-something companion and caregiver.

Some had been to other Death Cafés. Others were new to the experience.

But everyone had come to talk about death — or at least to listen to other people talking about death.

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Judge says impaired murder suspect understood rights

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copyright the Chronicle August 30, 2017

 

by Paul Lefebvre

 

NEWPORT — Can an inebriated murder suspect understand the rights he has given up when consenting to talk to police at the time of his arrest?

In a 12-page ruling following hearings and expert testimony, Orleans County Superior Court Judge Howard VanBenthuysen has ruled he can.

The judge’s ruling derails a defense motion to suppress evidence gained when accused murderer Jeffrey Ray, 53, of Brownington waived his Miranda rights and talked to police.

Mr. Ray, who remains in custody, has pled innocent to murdering his ex-wife’s husband on May 24, 2015, in Brownington.

The judge’s ruling, which is expected to clear the way for an early trial next year, came in the face of conflicting testimony from two experts and testimony from police.

According to Judge VanBenthuysen’s “Finding of Facts,” State Police Detective Sergeant Jacob Zoen interviewed the defendant at North Country Hospital roughly an hour after the shooting.

At that initial interview, according to the court’s findings, the detective did not note “any signs or symptoms of alcohol impairment.” Mr. Ray told the detective that he understood his rights and signed the Miranda form after it had been read to him.

The interview lasted 52 minutes and, at some point, the detective did note “a slight odor of intoxicants on the defendant.”

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A plan for reviving downtown Newport

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copyright the Chronicle August 30, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The consultant hired by the city to help develop a redevelopment strategy in the wake of the collapse of Jay Peak’s Newport EB-5 efforts presented a preliminary report at the Gateway Center last week.

David White, who heads White and Burke, a company that has assisted other cities, including St. Albans, to bring their downtowns back to life, spoke along with his associate Joe Weith.

It was their second meeting with the Newport City Renaissance Corporation and a steering committee of business leaders.

Mr. White’s company was hired by the city council in March and has been working since then to gather information and develop plans.

While its recommendations are far from finalized, Mr. White said the city should work to bring a hotel to Newport, possibly by converting the Emory Hebard State Office Building.

He also suggested the creation of a tax increment finance district to help create conditions for economic development in the city.

Mr. White also encouraged the city to participate somehow in the sale of the former Spates Block in order to be sure its new owner’s plans work well with those of the city.

The Burke and White study is one of a series of investigations into how Newport can revive itself. Those include the Regional Urban Design Team (RUDAT) visits in 2009 and 2011.

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