A look at crime in 2012

Saturday January 5, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- A murder case that shook Brattleboro to its core was resolved when the man accused of killing Michael Martin, the Brattleboro Food Co-op's beer and wine manager, pleaded guilty in October and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

On Aug. 9, 2011, Richard Gagnon walked into the Co-op and shot Martin, after Gagnon had received an unfavorable job review from Martin a few days before.

While members of Martin's family were unhappy with the plea agreement, the Windham County State's Attorney's Office explained the sentence levied against 59-year-old Gagnon would likely not have been much different if it had gone to trial. Deputy State's Attorney David Gartenstein said during the sentencing hearing that a trial would be "a burden on the community" and he wondered what more would be gained by having Co-op employees, Martin family members and others testify.

Less than two weeks before Martin's murder, Melissa Barratt of Brattleboro was found on the side of East West Road in Dummerston, dead of a gunshot wound to the head. Shortly after the discovery on July 29, 2011, Frank Caraballo of Holyoke, Mass., and Joshua Makhanda-Lopez of Springfield, Mass., were arrested as suspects in the slaying.

In 2012, Makhanda-Lopez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute drugs and possession of a firearm in connection with drug distribution and is scheduled to be sentenced this month.

Caraballo was sentenced to 16 years in prison after pleading guilty in September 2012 to distributing crack cocaine. He is expected to go on trial for the death of Barratt later this year.

In Chesterfield, N.H., in April, two men engaged in what may or may not have been a shoot-out, resulting in the death of one man and serious injury to the other. The New Hampshire Attorney General has still not released additional information on the incident.

Also in Chesterfield, a Hinsdale, N.H., man accused of shooting another man in a robbery attempt in April 2011 pleaded guilty in October 2012 to one count of first-degree assault and one count of attempted robbery. Neal R. Bolster was sentenced to five to 10 years to serve for the incident.

Banks in Bellows Falls and Brattleboro were robbed, as were a number of convenience stores on Canal Street.

A task force made up of officers from regional law enforcement agencies busted a multi-state burglary ring that was responsible for thefts from numerous homes in the tri-state region in 2009. Sentences were handed down to many of the participants, ranging from five to 15 years in prison. A number of other defendants will see their days in court over the course of this year.

Former Brattleboro Area Middle School coach and safety officer Robert Dykes, 42, was sentenced in February 2012 to eight to 20 years in prison for having sexual contact with a minor in late 2010 and early 2011.

A former Vermont Academy teacher was arrested for possessing and manufacturing child pornography. Brant Nelson, 47, was arrested in January 2012, and is currently being held in prison, awaiting trial.

John Grega, 50, who was convicted of murdering his wife in 1994 in West Dover, was released from jail after questions arose over DNA evidence. A local judge ordered him to stand for retrial, though no date has yet been set.


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