Man accused of robbing gas station employees at gun point

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BENNINGTON — A man has been arraigned in connection with the armed robbery of two Martin's Mobil Mini Mart employees who were making a bank deposit Monday morning.

John T. Chinnici, 30, who listed a Bennington address with the court, pleaded not guilty Friday to a felony count of assault and armed robbery with a deadly weapon, and a misdemeanor count of false information to police. He was held for lack of $100,000 bail.

State's Attorney Erica Marthage said Chinnici is a flight risk and under federal probation.

Federal court records show he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm in 2008 and was sentenced to 90 months in prison, with two years of probation to follow.

Chinnici's arraignment hearing was brief. His attorney, Public Defender Susan McManus, did not contest the bail, but reserved the right to do so at a later date, and only argued that, if released, her client be allowed to travel between Bennington and Windham Counties, since his probation is being served in Windham.

According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Detective Larry Cole, on Monday at 12:30 a.m. two employees at Martin's Mobil Mini Mart were carrying $1,700 to a nearby bank for a drop deposit when two masked men approached them. They demanded "the money" prompting one of the employees to put the deposit envelope on the ground. The masked man not holding a gun picked it up. The employees were told to lay on the ground for 15 minutes while the masked men fled.

One of the employees told police he locked eyes with the masked man who picked up the enveloped and that person looked down. He also said that even while masked, the man with gun reminded him of someone he had seen at the Bennington Probation and Parole Office who had facial tattoos.

Cole wrote that he watched video taken by Martin's Mobil security cameras that shows the two employees leaving the store, then not long after two figures come running by. The employees are then seen returning.

On Jan. 12 police received information about who may have robbed the Subway Sandwich Shop on North Street in Bennington in July.

Subway was also robbed on Jan. 8 at gunpoint. On Sunday, Paulin's in North Bennington was robbed in the same fashion by a person dressed similarly to the Subway robber. This made for three armed robberies between Jan. 8 and Jan. 11.

According to the affidavit, the investigation into the July Subway robbery led them to a male and a female who live near a local gas station. Employees at the gas station said that on Jan. 11 they saw the male in the station with another male who sported facial tattoos.

Police looked at surveillance videos of that gas station and identified the tattooed male as Chinnici.

On Jan. 14, police executed a search warrant at the male's apartment and took him and the female into custody.

The male admitted to being one of the people who robbed the Martin's Mobil employees. He said he was with Chinnici, who had a gun. He said he locked eyes with one of the people he was helping to rob, then looked down because he was ashamed.

Other details the male gave police about the incident were consistent with what they had learned from the surveillance videos and victims. He said Chinnici spent the night with him and the female, then they got coffee at the nearby gas station in the morning.

Police spoke to Chinnici who claimed not to have been with the male or the female in the past several weeks. He admitted to being as the gas station for coffee with the male after being told of the video.

The male told police that on Sunday night, he and the female went with Chinnici to Dover where they had pizza at a restaurant. Chinnici said something about wanting to make some money, then they all returned to Bennington.

Chinnici told police that while he had been in Dover eating pizza, the male in question was not with him. He said after pizza, he went with a friend to their house where he stayed the night. He later admitted to the male having been there after police called his friend.

During that phone call, Chinnici was present with police. Police asked the friend if Chinnici had stayed the night with them in Dover, and the friend said he had not. Chinnici heard this and told the friend to be truthful. The friend then changed his story and stuck to it on the following day when police went to speak to him.

Chinnici had also told police about taking public transportation back to Bennington on Monday morning, then from there going to the male's apartment. Police watched a surveillance video on the only bus he could have taken and did not see him on it.

Initially, Chinnici agreed to turn over his cell phone, which he said he had used to make two calls from the Dover area. Police told him they would search the phone, which would show them the true call log even if parts of it had been deleted. It would also show them what cell towers it had been near, and would thus corroborate his story about being where he said he was on Sunday night.

At that point, Chinnici retracted his consent to search the phone, saying "people send me a lot of stupid (expletive)" via the phone.

Chinnici told police the male implicating him was the one who robbed the Subway in July, with the female also being involved.

As of this writing, Chinnici is the only person facing charges connected to the Martin's robbery.

— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115


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