Convicted murderer taken into custody
This story was updated at 4:29 p.m on February 12, 2020.
RUTLAND — A convicted murderer who cut off an electronic monitoring bracelet and absconded from furlough one week ago from Bellows Falls was taken into custody early Wednesday morning, Vermont State Police said.
William Wheelock, 55, was located in a residence on Park Avenue in Rutland City just before 2 a.m. Wednesday by state police, their Tactical Support Unit and FBI agents, police said. He was taken into custody without incident and brought to the Marble Valley Correctional Center.
Wheelock was convicted of second-degree murder for the 1987 shooting of James Brillon of Danby at an apartment in Ludlow and sentenced to serve 21-99 years in prison. He has been released and returned to jail repeatedly since 2002, according to the Department of Corrections.
He was released on furlough Jan. 28, 2020. He was under DOC supervision and residing in transitional housing in Bellows Falls at the time he absconded. While on furlough, he was required to wear an electronic monitoring device. Wheelock cut off and discarded the device, which alerted DOC to immediately notify local law enforcement.
James Baker, the acting commissioner of the Department of Corrections, said Vermont's laws dealing with furloughed prisoners had been changed in recent years and as a result Wheelock will not face criminal charges for his disappearance.
Baker, who retired from the head of the Vermont State Police several years ago, said it was too soon to say whether Wheelock had committed other crimes during his six days on the run.
Likewise, Baker said, it was too soon to know whether the people who aided Wheelock during the past week would face criminal charges.
Baker said he didn't know whether Wheelock would be released again on furlough. "That will be up to the furlough/parole process," he said.
He said Wheelock will always be considered dangerous by law enforcement because he is a convicted murderer.
Baker praised the work of the Vermont State Police, the U.S. Marshal's office and other law enforcement agencies for their work finding and arresting Wheelock.
"The Vermont State Police and other law enforcement agencies worked non-stop, 24/7," he said.
"Corrections is greatly appreciative of their efforts," said Baker.
Wheelock is originally from the Springfield, Massachusetts, area, but has spent 26 of the last 30 years in a Vermont prison.
The Bellows Falls Police Department was notified about the incident at about 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 5, and launched an investigation to locate and apprehend Wheelock. The Vermont State Police was notified and assisted with the search for Wheelock. Through investigation police verified that Wheelock was last seen at about 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 5, when getting into a dark-colored SUV at the Penguin Mart in Bellows Falls. The vehicle contained two to three other people and traveled north on U.S. Route 5 toward Rockingham.
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