BRATTLEBORO >> A local man entered into a plea agreement Friday afternoon for four counts of burglary, two counts of unlawful mischief. and two counts of grand larceny of greater than $900.
In 2015, a video surveillance camera caught William Brown, 49, of Brattleboro, breaking into numerous storage units at the Hillwinds Storage facility on Upper Dummerston Road. Previously, Brown faced 17 counts of burglary, unlawful mischief, petit larceny and grand larceny; he pleaded guilty to eight.
Several individuals who had their storage units broken into gave victim impact statements in the Windham superior Court Criminal Division on Tuesday. One of these statements was read by local resident Stephen R. Vissette on behalf of former Brattleboro resident Jim Wheelock who had comic books and other items stolen from his storage unit.
"I'm sure Mr. Brown is well aware of how lucky he is with this plea bargain," Wheelock wrote in the impact statement that was read in court. "I also want him and all here to be aware how badly he has ruined my life by robberies in stealing my comics collection officially appraised at $136,310.22."
Wheelock was born and raised in Brattleboro and currently resides in Los Angeles. He is also a published comic book author and had up to 6,000 comic books, dating back to the 1940s, which were kept at the Hillwinds Storage facility. Wheelock said he had planned to use money from the sales of the comics to help him through retirement.
"Thanks to William Brown I can have no real retirement, I will be forced to work until the day I die, scrambling to make the rent," Wheelock's wrote.
Brown's plea agreement requires that he serve a four-year term of probation, perform 240 hours of community service within three and a half years, obey curfew as directed by his probation officer, engage in victim-offender mediation (if agreed to by the victims), not engage in criminal behavior, and engage in the Reparative Probation program. This sentence is in effect on July 15 of this year.
"I would just like to apologize for my actions, I made a huge mistake..." Brown said in court on Tuesday.
In an affidavit, Brattleboro Police Officer Adam Petlock said Brown admitted to selling all of the items he stole, and Petlock said when Brown's vehicle, residence and storage space were searched none of the items were recovered. Brown has a storage unit and also rented a property from the owners of the storage space.
Petlock interviewed a number of Hillwinds customers who said items had been stolen out of their units. The list includes fishing poles valued at more than $200, an antique clock worth more than $1,000, a baseball bat signed by members of the New York Yankees, and a silver set.
One victim who spoke on Tuesday, Nye Ffarrabas, noted that she is 84 years old and has had four major surgeries, which she said is relevant to the burglaries that occurred.
"One thing that I was able to identify that was gone were my very fine snow shoes with new fittings," said Ffarrabas. "It's unlikely I will go snow shoeing again, but it was a symbol of hope for me."
Another individual who gave a impact statement was Johann Nortz of Brattleboro, who said the possessions he had stolen were handed down since the early 1800s. Nortz said he had planned to pass them on to his children and can no longer do that.
Brown's defense attorney, Mimi Brill, noted that at the time of the incident Brown's wife was ill with tuberculosis, which may have led to the actions to which he pleaded guilty. Brill said this is not an excuse for his actions, but that Brown understands what he has done and has accepted responsibility since day one.
Judge Katherine Hayes noted that she frequently sees people who are homeless rely on storage units for their possessions, thus when a storage burglary occurs, it is a"serious" matter.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275