BRATTLEBORO -- A Brattleboro man pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges that he committed four January robberies -- including two incidents at the same pizza shop.
Authorities say Kevin Lynch, 49, was driven by substance abuse to take cash from Domino's Pizza and Exit 3 Mobil in Brattleboro and Exit 4 Sunoco in Dummerston.
In arraigning Lynch on four felony counts of larceny from a person, Judge David Suntag noted that the alleged behavior "describes somebody who's doing whatever he needed to do in order to get drugs."
The first robbery happened on the night of Jan. 15, when Brattleboro police were called to Domino's Pizza at 141 Canal St. An employee there said he was returning from taking trash outside when he saw a man at the counter; the suspect told the employee to "give me all the money in the drawer," court documents say.
The man, who had been described as about 50 years old with a face mask and bloodshot eyes, escaped with $100, Brattleboro police Officer Jonathan Whiteman wrote in an affidavit.
Three days later, just before 6 a.m., police were summoned to Exit 3 Mobil on Putney Road. An employee said a man demanded all the money in the register, telling the clerk that "this was something that had been planned and that people were watching his house," the affidavit says.
The suspect left with $200.
Then, on Jan. 26, police again went to Domino's on Canal Street, where an employee reported that, just after 8 p.m., a man had ordered him "to give him all of the money."
The clerk "asked the male if he was serious, and the male said, 'yes,'" the affidavit says. Officers obtained surveillance video of the robber in that incident.
The final robbery happened Jan. 27, at the Exit 4 Sunoco in Dummerston near the Putney town line. Vermont State Police investigated that incident, which was reported at 1:40 a.m. -- less than six hours after the second robbery at Domino's.
State Police Detective Sgt. Barbara Zonay said she interviewed the Sunoco clerk, who told her a man had entered the store with his face covered and alcohol on his breath.
The man demanded, "Gimme the money," according to an affidavit filed by Zonay. When the clerk refused, the suspect told him that the station's owner "did not pay him enough to be a hero."
"They argued for several minutes, and another customer came in," Zonay wrote. "(The clerk) told the customer that he was being robbed. That customer left and called 911."
When the suspect warned that he had people watching the clerk's home and threatened him and his family with violence, the clerk opened the register, stepped back and the robber "reached over and grabbed the money," court documents say. The amount taken was estimated at $100 to $150.
The suspect had escaped on foot, and a K-9 team traced him down the Exit 4 ramp before the trail went cold at the southbound lanes of Interstate 91.
In mid-February, however, Brattleboro police talked with Lynch's ex-girlfriend, who said she believed her former boyfriend had committed the two robberies at the Brattleboro Domino's Pizza.
That tip led police last month to Morningside Commons in Brattleboro, where Lynch had been living with a different girlfriend. During the course of a trespassing complaint investigation, that woman told police she "had knowledge of criminal activity that was occurring at the residence and how she could get people put into jail for 25 years," court documents say.
The woman later said Lynch had "stated that he had robbed a couple of stores," and had robbed the same store twice. She reported that "Lynch would take the money and buy cocaine," the Brattleboro police affidavit says.
Police also used a search warrant to seize clothing that Lynch allegedly wore during the Exit 4 Sunoco robbery. And the ex-girlfriend told authorities that she has seen clothing that she believed Lynch wore during the second Domino's robbery.
Lynch was arrested at his home on Monday, after he returned from Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.
During his arraignment Tuesday in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division, Lynch's attorney, John Mabie, said his client has been receiving inpatient treatment at Fletcher Allen and Brattleboro Retreat.
"He has tried to get help for some issues -- long-standing issues," Mabie told Suntag.
Mabie asked for the judge to impose $1,000 bail, noting that his client does not work and receives disability payments.
But Windham County Deputy State's Attorney David Gartenstein asked for $15,000 bail. Lynch has a criminal history that also is related to substance abuse, he said.
Court records show that Lynch has been convicted of six misdemeanors including driving under the influence, unlawful mischief, false information to law enforcement and probation violations.
Suntag imposed $5,000 bail, in part based on Lynch's record.
"Given his history of prior convictions, probation violations, failures to appear ... there's reason to believe there is sufficient risk of nonappearance (for future court dates)," the judge said.
Lynch also was ordered to stay away from the three businesses and the employees he is accused of robbing.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.