BRATTLEBORO >> A Brattleboro man pleaded guilty to six counts in Windham County Superior Court, Criminal Division, for four different burglaries, possession of a narcotic drug and possession of a dangerous or deadly weapon while within a school building.
Christopher McLean, 32, entered into a plea agreement and will serve seven to 25 years for said charges. McLean also admitted to violation of probation on a Bennington document.
"I just would like to apologize to Mr. Dakin; I'm not sorry I'm going to jail, I understand what I did. At the time I was in a bad place, I know words are just words, but I apologize for the hurt I caused you," said McLean in court on Friday afternoon. "Like I said before, I'm not sorry I'm going to jail, I'm sorry that my daughter will be 14 until I see her again."
"Mr. Dakin," or Eugene Dakin, was the owner of the property on Fairview Street that McLean broke into with another man in 2014. Dakin was present in court Friday afternoon and provided a few words to McLean.
"More than material lost, important for Mr. McLean to know and for it to be said, these crimes have real consequences for victims who have to live with uncertainty that their house is not as safe as we thought it was," said Dakin.
McLean's attorney, Daniel H. Maguire explained, while "not excusable," that many of his offense were due to McLean's "drug problem" and that they would not have occurred otherwise. Judge Catherine Hayes noted the damage drug addiction has caused several towns.
"We're all aware of the heroin and opiate addiction plague that we're facing plays a roll in too much of what we're facing," said Hayes. "It's become almost routine, and it's so sad to see our communities affected this way and people's lives damaged this way."
While all of McLean's cases were given attention, the most was drawn to his charge of possession of a dangerous or deadly weapon while within a school building. On Feb. 19, 2015, McLean entered Oak Grove School after committing a burglary from a residence on Oak Grove Avenue where police reported missing items included prescription painkillers, jewelry, coins and fishing lures. McLean had a knife in his backpack when he entered the school.
When a search was conducted, police said McLean was found in a women's bathroom on the second floor with a backpack and camouflage coat. Inside the bag, police found the missing narcotics, earrings, coins and a single fishing sinker. Also in the bag was a folding knife.
At court on Friday, McLean explained he did not enter the school with intent to harm, but rather to see his daughter one more time as he predicted at that moment he would be going to jail.
School was not in session at the time of the incident, however after-school activities were in session and Brattleboro Police Captain Mark Carignan estimated that about 27 students from kindergarten to sixth grade were inside the building at the time of the intrusion. Oak Grove School went into lock down and according to Carignan, BPD, Rescue Inc., Vermont State Police, a deputy from the Windham County Sheriff's Office and personnel from the Department of Motor Vehicles reported to the scene. He added that it was just over an hour until the suspect was located and efforts were made to avoid trauma for the kids.
"The risks of intruder or uninvited persons are significant," said Carignan. "Schools generally house the most vulnerable and valuable population," said Carignan.
Deputy State's Attorney David W. Gartenstein noted that the timing of the incident was within "very close proximity" to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which Gartenstein said is among one of the "most dangerous things we can experience here on day-to-day basis."
Judges Katherine Hayes noted the negative impact this had on faculty and teachers, despite whether students understood what was going at the time or not.
McLean was previously convicted of escaping custody in 2005, unlawful trespass in 2004, escaping custody in 2001 and burglary in the same year.
"I hope that in the course of all of this, whatever lead (McLean) multiple times to commit these crimes, in future as he has time to reflect on what happened and has done, when out of jail consider never, never doing these things again," said Dakin.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275