Drug debt cited in local kidnapping case
BRATTLEBORO -- Shortly after his arrest Thursday evening, Salahdin Trowell allegedly told police that, "when people owe him money, they pay."
That apparently was the motivation behind a several-hour odyssey that began at the downtown Brattleboro parking garage and ended at a Canal Street apartment as police arrested Trowell, 30, and charged him with kidnapping.
Three others had been arrested a few hours earlier in West Brattleboro; all were charged with helping Trowell kidnap two women from Flat Street at the parking garage entrance.
At issue, according to court papers, was $400 owed for "stolen" heroin -- and the women allegedly were abducted as a means to try and recover that cash.
On Friday afternoon, about 24 hours after the incident began, all four suspects appeared in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division.
Trowell, whose addresses were listed as both the 100 block of Canal Street and Jersey City, N.J., was ordered held without bail on charges of kidnapping, assault and robbery and simple assault attempted by menace.
The Windham state's attorney's office requested that the other three suspects also be held without bail.
Judge John Wesley imposed $100,000 bail on two of those defendants -- Marcus W. Koritz, 19, with addresses listed on Canal Street in Brattleboro and in Springfield, Mass.; and James J. Manning, 29, of Jersey City, N.J.
Both men face charges including aiding in the commission of a felony, burglary and unlawful trespass.
Held on $2,500 bail was Jacobina J. Carter, 38, of Elliot Street in Brattleboro. She is charged with aiding in the commission of a felony.
Ted Kramer, Carter's defense attorney, argued that his client was not present when anyone was threatened and may have been "in the wrong place, in the wrong circumstance."
But Brattleboro police name Carter as the driver of a white Cadillac -- apparently sporting "Betty Boop" stickers on the back -- into which two women were forced sometime before 1 p.m. on Thursday.
One of the victims told police that she and her friend had been "hanging around" the Flat Street parking garage entrance when Trowell, Koritz and Manning approached and threatened her.
The woman told investigators that Trowell "is a known drug dealer in Brattleboro," police wrote in a court affidavit. "She said that he is violent and threatens people regularly. She said that, when people owe him money, he threatens them and is violent. She stated that drug users and subordinate drug dealers associated with Trowell are afraid of him."
Trowell allegedly was looking for a Brattleboro man -- himself accused of several assaults in the past seven months -- who owed money "related to drug dealing."
The woman, who is acquainted with that debtor, said Trowell threatened to kill her if she did not find the man. Koritz and Manning made similar statements, investigators said.
The victim handed over $50 after Trowell demanded cash, police said. But when Manning "got in her face and said he would ‘beat you right here,' Trowell then interjected and told them not to do that because of cameras in the parking garage," court documents say.
At that point, a Brattleboro police officer responded to a call for a disturbance at the parking garage and "saw three unknown suspects leave the area and go into the garage's elevator."
The officer questioned and released three others, then departed. Trowell, Koritz and Manning then returned -- this time in the Cadillac driven by Carter, police said.
The two women were ordered into the back seat with Koritz, while Manning and Carter were in the front. Trowell exited the car and allegedly told his accomplices that, if the two women tried to escape, they should "(expletive) them up."
Trowell also threatened to kill the women and "gripped the front of his waistband as if grabbing a gun under his untucked shirt and stated, ‘I ain't no (expletive) joke,'" the affidavit says.
The car proceeded to a Western Avenue address where the man who owed drug money -- and an alleged associate -- were known to hang out, police said. Manning and Koritz got out of the car.
The kidnapped women remained in the car. One of them "took this opportunity to call 911 several times but could not relay information," police said, while the other victim "sent text messages to several friends asking them to call 911."
Investigation later showed that Manning and Koritz entered the Western Avenue apartment and spotted one of the men they sought, court documents say. But a woman there yelled for help and threatened to call police, spurring Koritz to smash her phone on the floor, police said.
Manning and Koritz fled back to the Cadillac, but police -- responding to a call about a kidnapping and, apparently, to the 911 calls placed by one of the victims -- pulled the car over shortly thereafter.
The kidnapping victims were freed, while Koritz, Manning and Carter were taken into custody.
Koritz told police that he was owed $400 for heroin that had been stolen; he also said someone had stolen money from the person who was supposed to be paying him back.
"Koritz said he was upset by this because people ‘know what happens' when they owe me money and don't pay," police wrote in the court affidavit.
But Koritz also claimed that the two victims had not been kidnapped; rather, they "willingly" had gotten into the Cadillac outside the parking garage.
However, Manning told investigators a different story.
"I asked why they would get in, and (Manning) said because they were afraid of Trowell," Brattleboro police Sgt. Mark Carignan wrote in the affidavit. "He said they were probably intimidated by the comments he had made about beating them up."
Brattleboro police then went to an apartment in the 100 block of Canal Street to find Trowell. But they did not enter out of concern that the suspect may have been armed.
Trowell did not come out. After "several hours," police said, officers searched the apartment and "located Trowell hiding underneath a bed with several bags pulled up around him."
In a phone interview Friday, Brattleboro Police Chief Eugene Wrinn said he understood why people were concerned for their safety and for the safety of children in the area of the Canal Street incident. But Wrinn said officers on the scene had been dealing with a fluid situation.
"This was a quick-moving incident. A lot of decisions were made on the fly," Wrinn said. "The officers actually entered the apartment in a small group to remove a 2-month-old baby."
Wrinn commended Carignan and Brattleboro police Lt. Jeremy Evans for their role in bringing the situation to a safe resolution. He said Brattleboro's dispatchers also deserve credit for collecting all information and getting it to the officers quickly.
Wrinn said there were 10 Brattleboro police officers on scene, and they were supported by two Vermont state troopers.
"If we could have shut down all of Canal Street and put up roadblocks, that would have been useful, but would it have been feasible as soon as we got there? No," Wrinn said.
He added that this incident is one of many that have him concerned about crime in Brattleboro.
"I am concerned about the increase in drug activity and the drug trade and the crimes associated with it," Wrinn said.
Trowell is no stranger to local police. After his arrest Thursday, he told investigators that he thought he was going to be arrested for violating his conditions of release because "he is currently out on bail for aggravated assault for allegedly stabbing someone."
In addition to those pending charges, Trowell had been cited in connection with an April 25 fight in front of Gouger's Market on Canal Street. The same day, he was cited for disorderly conduct after a report of an altercation on Elliot Street.
Trowell also spent time in prison for crimes committed in Beverly, N.J.
In 2007, Trowell was charged with drug possession, drug possession with the intent to distribute, drug possession with the intent to distribute near a school and parole violations.
His arrest reportedly was the result of a two-month undercover investigation into suspected drug trafficking. According to published reports, Trowell was then a known member of the Sex Money Murder faction of the Bloods street gang.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
Reformer Day Managing Editor Bob Audette contributed to this report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 160.
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