BRATTLEBORO — A Brattleboro man pleaded guilty to numerous charges involving a home invasion and robberies of Domino's Pizza and one of the restaurant's delivery drivers.
Michael Lenois Jr., 26, was sentenced to six to 25 years in prison and owes $882 in restitution fees after he appeared in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division on Monday. He pleaded guilty to three counts of assault and robbery with weapon, burglary of an occupied dwelling, domestic assault and violating conditions of release.
"The evidence showed that the defendant committed a series of violent crimes that put the community and individual people at risk. The plea agreement and sentence imposed by the court provide for a period of incarceration proportionate to the crimes that were committed followed by a lengthy period of supervision by the Department of Corrections on furlough or parole," said Windham County Deputy State's Attorney David Gartenstein. "The probable-cause affidavits reflect the defendant's own statements that at least two of the robberies were fueled by heroin addiction."
A Domino's employee told police that while bringing a pizza to a Canal Street residence on Feb. 2, he was told by an older man "no one here ordered a pizza" but he was flagged down by a young white male. According to the employee, the two men spoke and the older man went back inside the house.
"The younger man turned back to him and said something to the effect of, 'Sorry, I'm in a really bad spot,' and took out a knife with an approximately 12-inch blade and demanded that (the employee) give him money," police wrote in an affidavit. "(The employee) gave the man $18."
The older man told police the same story as the Domino's employee, adding that the robber told him he was homeless, his name was "Will" and he needed to use the address to get a pizza delivered.
After Lenois was arrested for the Feb. 12 robbery of Domino's on Canal Street in which the same employee was working behind the counter, the employee told police Lenois was the same person who robbed him 10 days earlier. The employee looked at Lenois' social media account online on Facebook. Approximately $80 was stolen from the business. A black mask was worn and a knife was brandished again.
Surveillance video helped police in both robberies. Footage showed Lenois leaving his apartment on Canal Street with a knife on Feb. 2, police said. Lenois then hid the weapon behind a small white waste basket in the hallway and went back into his apartment. Eight minutes later, he grabbed the knife and walked across the street wearing a light blue parka with a hoodie. The outfit matched the description by the Domino's employee. But about a half hour later in the video, Lenois was seen wearing different clothing and he was accompanied by a female. Police said the two stayed at the bottom of the stairwell "peering through the window for several minutes" before heading to Lenois' apartment upstairs.
Police arrested Lenois on Feb. 22 while he was walking along Canal Street. He waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with a detective at the Brattleboro Police Department.
"In the interview, Lenois admitted to committing the robbery," the affidavit stated. "(The employee) told me when Lenois robbed him and had the knife pointed at him, he felt that he was 'in fear for his life' and there was a very good chance he would get stabbed."
During the interview, Lenois confessed he was a heroin user and used the $80 from the Domino's robbery to purchase four bags of heroin.
A home invasion that took place on March 14 involved a victim letting a group enter his sister's residence on Clark Street.
"(The victim) could hear the others outside trying to push in the locked door," police said. "(Lenois) knew that he had money and when they came inside the apartment, he knew they were gong to rob him as Lenois had a bat and they were advancing towards him."
The victim told police he had $600 in his pocket. When the victim went to give it to a man sitting next to him, Lenois punched the man and swung the bat around. The money was eventually taken from the man, according to the victim, who said Lenois' 5-year-old son was in the residence at the time.
The victim's sister told police she felt threatened when Lenois entered her apartment and that she was shaking because she had "never seen him like that." The woman said she and Lenois had dated for eight years, and Lenois previously lived with her but was barred from returning to her apartment after he was arrested for assaulting her last year. The incident involved Lenois hitting her and splitting her eye open, she said.
Surveillance video from Gouger's Market on Canal Street on March 14 showed Lenois meeting with a group of people after midnight and leaving in a black sedan, according to police. One man in the footage was carrying a baseball bat. Lenois, who had a court-imposed curfew, violated his conditions of release by being out for any other reason than an appointment, treatment, court or meeting with his attorney.
Asked about the effectiveness of video systems, Gartenstein said, "Law enforcement officers have a range of tools available when they're doing investigations and in this case, like many others, video surveillance was one of the pieces of evidence that was collected and established the defendant's involvement in the crimes."
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.