BRATTLEBORO — A man pleaded guilty to charges stemming from separate attacks on two men and threatening Vermont State Police with a firearm.
John Wetherby, 37, formerly of Bellows Falls, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, two counts of unlawful trespass into a residence and violating probation during a hearing last week in Windham Superior Court, Criminal Division. Having been incarcerated for four years, he will now serve four to eight years more as part of the agreement.
In Bellows Falls in early March 2019, Wetherby beat a man over the head with a construction stapler, fracturing his right eye socket and jaw, leaving him lying in his own pool of blood, Judge Katherine Hayes read from the agreement. A few days later, Wetherby entered a home in Bellows Falls and hit another man with a baseball ball and stabbed him with scissors, causing hemorrhaging and requiring the victim to get stitches in his neck. Wetherby entered another home in Rockingham the next day with a shotgun, threatened Vermont State Police troopers and ended up getting shot by police.
“These crimes happened four years ago this week and the proceedings have been substantially delayed,” Deputy State’s Attorney David Gartenstein said at the March 6 hearing, noting how Wetherby changed counsel at least three times.
Gartenstein said the first victim bears scars “emotionally and physically” from the attack.
“My understanding is he’ll never be the same from his injuries,” he said.
Gartenstein described the second victim as being traumatized from the attack, and said he believes Wetherby was “going for suicide by cop” when he threatened the troopers.
“What occurred here totally changed a series of people’s lives,” Gartenstein said. “It definitely caused very substantial harm.”
Wetherby was evaluated by experts hired by both parties, Gartenstein said, adding that he believes an argument could be made for insanity in the first offense but not the others.
Gartenstein said he understands the police and the victim of the baseball bat and scissor attack are satisfied with the agreement but he is not sure about the first victim. The first victim’s ex-girlfriend submitted a statement saying the assault changed their lives forever.
The first victim told the Reformer he understands why the deal was made, however he did not like that Wetherby could get out in three years with good behavior. The first victim also called the Southern State Correctional Facility “the Holiday Inn,” when compared to other facilities.
“It would have been nice to see him sent somewhere else,” the first victim said, adding that the charges should have been for attempted murder. “He’s a violent person. For no reason, he walked into my house and hit me in the back of the head. I don’t get the whole thing.”
The first victim said Wetherby worked for his father for years and himself at times, and was his parents’ next door neighbor in Bellows Falls.
“We have no idea why he did what he did,” he added. “He was a great father — that’s what I don’t get — he was very good to his three kids. I don’t really know why this happened. No one really understands it. My parents were always so good to him. I was always good to him.”
The first victim said the state did the best it could to prosecute the case.
“They really did,” he said. “I’m just glad it’s over.”
He said he has let go of his anger and moved on but he was underwhelmed by Wetherby’s apology in court.
Wetherby “stood up, had his head down, never looked at any of us and apologized and said he knew it was wrong what he did,” the first victim said, describing it as insincere.