Vermont man considered a 'suspect' in N.H. missing person's case

Thursday July 4, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- A 43-year-old Vermont man, whose wife has been missing for a week and is feared dead, is a "suspect" in a missing person's case, said a Windham County deputy state's attorney.

Windham County Deputy State's Attorney Steven Brown called James Robarge a "suspect in a missing persons case in New Hampshire" during Robarge's arraignment yesterday in Windham Superior Court on two charges unrelated to his wife's disappearance, although Brown did not mention Kelly Robarge by name.

Robarge was arrested Tuesday afternoon after fleeing from police officers as they attempted to pull him over while he was driving to an urgent care facility in Bellows Falls. Robarge was apprehended following a foot pursuit and has been charged with attempting to elude with gross negligent operation, a felony, and gross negligent operation, a misdemeanor. He pleaded not guilty to both charges.

After yesterday's arraignment, Brown would not comment on what missing persons case he was referring and directed further questions to the New Hampshire Attorney General's office.

Robarge is the estranged husband of Kelly Robarge, a 42-year-old Charlestown woman who has been missing since last Thursday. Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell has called Kelly Robarge's disappearance suspicious and said she fears Robarge is gravely harmed or dead.

Morrell did not return a call yesterday, but told WMUR-TV that her office is investigating James Robarge, but did not refer to him as a suspect.

"We would be remiss if we did not investigate his whereabouts and whether he was involved in this disappearance," Morrell told the TV station.

Kelly Robarge filed for divorce on the same day that she was last seen, according to court records. On Tuesday, Kelly Robarge's mother, Carol Hewitt, said that James Robarge was the first to discover that Kelly Robarge was missing when he arrived at her home and found the family's five German shepherds barking and their 1-year-old grandson alone in the house. Kelly Robarge was last seen at 11:20 a.m. when her daughter dropped off her son at the home.

James Robarge was held on $5,000 bail and under the condition that he cannot leave the county or operate a motor vehicle.

Before his arraignment, Robarge was examined by JoAnn Dressel, a crisis intervention specialist with Health Care and Rehabilitation Services, a mental health treatment center. Robarge appeared to be suicidal Tuesday afternoon, Brown said, but Dressel disputed that assertion. Dressel said she found no indications of mental health issues and said when Robarge was asked on Tuesday by investigators if he was suicidal, he said no. But investigators nontheless asked him how he would try to kill himself, and he gave a response, Dressel said.

"He had already indicated that he wasn't suicidal, so the second question probably shouldn't have been asked," Dressel said.

Robarge, who was wearing a black t-shirt with the words "Higgins Powersports" on the back, didn't speak in court. His public defender, Joanne Baltz, said Robarge grew up in the Saxtons River area, a village of Rockingham. He still gets his mail at his wife's home on Happy Acres Road in Charlestown, but he has been living with his stepfather for about three months.

After Kelly Robarge's disappearance, Baltz said James Robarge was contacted by New Hampshire law enforcement officials and then released.

"Clearly he didn't disappear," Baltz said.

Court documents give the following account:

At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, the Bellows Falls Police Department was contacted by Dr. Josh Dufresne at Springfield Medical Group Systems. Dr. Dufresne would not identify Robarge by name, but said a person made an appointment for 3 p.m. at the Rockingham Medical Center and that "this person was likely to become violent and hurt himself or others." Dr. Dufresne also said that the person was involved with a missing person investigation in Charlestown, N.H.

The medical staff was looking for assistance in providing a "plain-clothed officer" at the facility and said the patient may "kill himself" after the appointment.

In the affidavit, Robarge is called a "person of interest" in the investigation. The New Hampshire State Police are the primary investigators in the missing persons case, with the Vermont State Police are providing assistance.

Two Bellows Falls police officers, William Frank and Mario Checchi, were assigned to intercept Robarge before his arrival at the urgent care facility and watched for him and his 1996 Green Chevrolet Blazer on Route 121. When the officers spotted Robarge traveling south, toward Bellows Falls, they conducted a "felony stop."

Bellows Falls Officer Checchi drew a firearm and Robarge was ordered to place both of his hands out the window of his vehicle, in which he obliged. But when Robarge was ordered to exit the vehicle, he sped off. Robarge traveled about 25 mph above the speed limit until he reached the urgent care facility.

Robarge entered the pedestrian-heavy parking lot. He stopped his car right by the front door, striking a large planter. Robarge then got out of his car and entered the urgent care facility, running through the halls while officers chased him. He was eventually tackled to the ground by an officer.

Robage was lodged at the Southern State Correctional Facility.

During the arraignment, Baltz said her client did the right thing by trying to go to his doctor. When officers drew a gun, he panicked, Baltz said. She argued that he has ties to the area and is not at risk to flee.

"He's not a flight risk, your honor. Even (with) what is going on in New Hampshire, he's not a flight risk," Baltz said.


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