BENNINGTON — The arraignment of a woman accused of helping tie up and place a plastic bag over the head of another woman was postponed Monday when the defendant failed to appear in court.
Samantha Danforth, 33, of Pownal was to be arraigned on three charges — accessory to aggravated assault, and two charges of cocaine sale. All three charges are felonies and are punishable by a maximum of 30 years if found guilty.
Danforth failed to show up at her 8:30 a.m. arraignment at the Bennington Superior Courthouse on Monday. Judge Kerry McDonald-Cady issued an arrest warrant, but it was held until 1 p.m. to allow Danforth the opportunity to appear. As the judge’s deadline passed, the arraignment was postponed until Danforth could be found and arrested.
According to a police affidavit in a related aggravated assault case, a search warrant for the cellphone of William McLaughlin turned up a series of 13 photographs of a woman tied up by the wrists with a plastic garbage bag on her head, the bag tied tightly around her neck. Another photo allegedly shows McLaughlin holding the bag against the victim’s head, as Danforth smiles and sticks her tongue out. The first six photographs show a pink blanket being held behind the victim’s head while she sits in a chair. The rest of the photographs show the blanket on the floor in front of Danforth. The pictures were all time-stamped on May 5, 2022. The person taking the photos has not yet been identified.
No motive for the incident was mentioned in court documents.
The second suspect seen in the photographs, McLaughlin, has a scheduled hearing on March 24. He is being held without bail at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport on several other charges, including burglary into an occupied dwelling with a deadly weapon, larceny and aggravated assault, all related to this case.
The drug charges stem from an investigation by the Vermont Drug Task Force and assisted by an undercover informant. Danforth allegedly made separate cocaine sales last summer, after setting up a meeting with the informant on two occasions in Bennington.