Defense may request psychological evaluation of stabbing suspect
Assault suspect thought the Hell's Angels were after him
BRATTLEBORO — A Bellows Falls man accused of seriously injuring two men in the course of a week pleaded not guilty to the charges of aggravated assault before a local judge ordered him held without bail.
Windham Superior Court Judge Katherine Hayes noted the reasons that John-Victor Wetherby, 33, assaulted the two men were "very difficult to understand."
"I understand that there is some kind of self-defense claim that may be being made ..." said Hayes. "But he is not in a great position to take the position that he had the right to defend himself."
Hayes noted she was holding Wetherby without bail prior to a weight-of-the-evidence hearing, scheduled for Friday morning, because he had violated the conditions of his probation for a previous conviction and because there is no set of conditions that could protect the public if he is released from jail.
The first assault is alleged to have occurred on March 2 in Westminster. That morning, a deputy with the Windham County Sheriff's Office responded to Flagship Place for the report of a possible domestic assault.
Upon arrival, Corp. Jonathan Griffus found a man wrapped in gauze with a lot of blood on his face. At the time of his arrival, the victim was being treated by emergency responders.
A witness told Griffus the incident began when a small red hatchback came sliding into the driveway, followed by Wetherby bursting into the building looking for a man he had a "beef" with. Instead, Wetherby attacked a man who tried to defuse the situation, wrote Griffus. According to court documents, Wetherby picked up a roofing stapler that was left outside the front entrance and attacked the man.
Another witness said when he entered the scene, he saw "Wetherby standing over [the man] with the roofing stapler in his hand," wrote Griffus. The man was "lying in a puddle of blood and [was] gurgling on his own blood."
According to the two witnesses, Wetherby said a number of times he did it because "his father told him to do it." Wetherby also said "he was trying to keep his family ..." wrote Griffus.
Wetherby fled the scene before the arrival of emergency responders and had been in hiding in a home on Hyde Street until March 8 at 1 p.m., when a New Hampshire man went to check on the home, which was unoccupied for the winter.
According to court documents, Wetherby attacked the man with "scissors and a baseball bat. That man received wounds to his head, face and hands before he was able to escape and call police.
When officers with the Bellows Falls Police Department responded to Hyde Street, Wetherby had fled the scene. For the next 12 hours, the BFPD, assisted by the Vermont State Police, the Chester Police Department and the Walpole, N.H., Police Department searched for Wetherby. With the help of the BFPD's K-9, police tracked Wetherby through the snow to an unoccupied home on Cota Heights Road in Rockingham. When confronted by police inside the home, Wetherby allegedly pointed a firearm at them. A Vermont State Trooper fired on Wetherby, who was grazed by a bullet before being taken into custody. He is being held in Southern State Correctional Facility.
According to an affidavit filed by Det. Sgt. Tyson Kinney, of the VSP's Major Crimes Unit, Wetherby recounted his actions over the week. He admitted to hitting his first victim with a stapler gun before fleeing and then seeking out his wife. He told her that he loved her and that he had to leave because he had hurt someone. He then wandered off on foot before climbing up to a second-floor balcony at 34 Hyde Street.
"Wetherby stated he stayed at the residence and continued eating canned food, such as salmon and tuna fish," wrote Kinney. He remained in the home until the arrival of the New Hampshire man.
Wetherby told the man he had permission to be in the house, but when the man said that's not true, Wetherby admitted he lied, states the affidavit filed by Kinney. The men began to argue and Wetherby said he felt cornered when he picked up a baseball bat.
"Once at the front of the residence, Wetherby stated the [man] picked up a large snow shovel and swung it at him," wrote Kinney. "Wetherby then swung the baseball bat, striking the male with it."
Wetherby contended during the struggle that followed, the man "was in complete control ... and had him pinned behind a stove."
"Wetherby stated he believed the male had struck him in the left side of his head, possible with a brick," states the affidavit. Wetherby required stitches to close up the wound on the side of his head, wrote Kinney.
Wetherby told Kinney that the he and the man were struggling on the floor with the man holding a pair of scissors over him with both hands. According to the affidavit, Wetherby showed Kinney a mark near his sternum, which he claimed was from being struck by the scissors. Wetherby said he was able to turn the scissors back on the man "to prevent himself from being stabbed."
"Wetherby stated as the men continued to fight, he stabbed the male subject in the neck with the scissors," wrote Kinney. "Wetherby stated he believed the male subject was stabbed multiple times ..."
According to the affidavit, Wetherby had wounds on his hands, which Wetherby contested were from the scissors.
"Wetherby stated the fight ended when the male subject asked Wetherby to stop, because he felt as though he was going to have a heart attack," wrote Kinney. "When the male subject said this, Wetherby agreed and told the male he also felt as though he was going to have a heart attack."
Both men fled the residence. According to an affidavit filed by BFPD Officer Joshua Paulette, Wetherby's victim had visible wounds to his neck and the left side of his head as well as to his right hand. The man's wounds required surgical staples. He also suffered from a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is bleeding into the space surrounding the brain.
On Monday afternoon, Wetherby was charged with unlawful trespass into an occupied dwelling and aggravated assault with a weapon for the March 11 incident. For the March 2 incident, he was charged with aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a weapon and burglary of an occupied dwelling.
According to court documents, the man involved in the March 2 incident suffered a shattered right eye socket, possible bone fragments in that eye and a fractured jaw. He was treated at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. During an interview at the hospital, the man said he also had a fractured skull and cracked or missing teeth. Doctors told the man it appeared he had been struck at least six times.
Deputies interviewed Wetherby's wife following that assault. She said Wetherby "started talking about this other identity he had and that his father was his mother's uncle and that he was an inbred. ... [H]e then started talking about the Hell's Angels were after him."
Wetherby's wife told deputies it was her opinion her husband "was losing his mind."
Wetherby also told a friend that "his father was in a motorcycle gang that wanted him dead."
During Wetherby's arraignment, his defense attorney told the judge that there would be a discussion on whether to seek an evaluation of his mental health.
Click here for a story on how the manhunt for Wetherby unfolded.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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