State's attorney: Murder case highlights gaps in legal system

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Readers: This version of the story is the version that appears in print editions of the Reformer and replaces an older version of the story online. It was updated at 10 a.m. Saturday. 

BRATTLEBORO — Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Shriver said the April 11 murder of Neal Bolster and Aaliyah Jacobs highlights problems in communications between states.

"There is not a formal process for checking on defendants who move across state borders unless they are probationers whose cases actually get transferred," said Shriver. "Defendants who are on conditions of release or on probation but move into another state are checked upon informally or by happenstance."

On April 9, two days before Bolster, 29, and Jacobs, 19, were shot and killed in Bolster's Hinsdale, N.H., home, the Windham County State's Attorney's Office sent an email to Bolster's parole officer in New Hampshire.

"I have heard reports that he is consuming illegal drugs and spending time with the victim of record [Aaliyah Jacobs] in his pending Vermont case," wrote State's Attorney Tracy Shriver in an email to Ryan Conover, a probation and parole officer in the Keene, N.H., office of the New Hampshire Department of Corrections. "Do you know anything about these reports?"

"I have heard the same reports," responded Conover. "He is due to check in with me tomorrow [April 10] and I plan to do a drug screen. I attempted to do a home visit last week, but he was not there."

Bolster was under the supervision of the Department of Corrections after pleading guilty to one count of first-degree assault and one count of attempted robbery in a drug-related shooting that happened in the parking lot of the Chesterfield Gorge on Route 9 in Chesterfield, N.H., on April 1, 2011.

Charges of attempted murder, falsifying physical evidence and a second count of first-degree assault against Bolster were dropped as part of a plea bargain.

Bolster was sentenced to no less than five and no more than 10 years in state prison for the assault charge and a suspended five- to 10-year stay in prison for the charge of attempted robbery. Though his exact date of release from prison is unknown, according to court documents, Bolster's minimum release date was March 31, 2016.

Bolster did not check in with Conover on April 10, and on April 11, officers with the Hinsdale Police Department went to Bolster's Plain Road home to conduct a welfare check. Instead, they found Bolster and Jacobs both dead from gunshot wounds. On April 12, the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office issued a warrant for the arrest of Derrick Shippee, 28, a former Brattleboro man, on two charges of second-degree murder. Later that same day, Shippee was found dead on family property in Vernon. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for Vermont has not yet released Shippee's death certificate.

How New Hampshire investigators identified Shippee as the suspect in the double homicide has not been revealed. The investigation is ongoing.

In his April 9 email response, Conover told Shriver that he had heard from Jacobs' mother that Bolster was in contact with Jacobs, which was a violation of an abuse prevention order issued against him by the state of Vermont in January 2018.

"Yesterday [April 8] Ms. Jacobs called me to tell me that she has not spoken with Bolster since his recent release from the N.H. State Prison, and he has not initiated contact with her," wrote Conover in his email to Shriver. "When I asked her what prompted her call to me, she said that she knows her mother has been calling me and the police. Ms. Jacobs also told me that her mother is crazy and trying to get Bolster in trouble, but the reports are not true. I have also told Bolster that he is to have no contact with Ms. Jacobs and if I find out that he is, he will be going back to prison."

The New Hampshire Department of Corrections declined a request from the Reformer for more information on Bolster's status as a parolee.

"The NHDOC is not responding to questions related to Mr. Bolster as there is an active homicide investigation and we do not want to impede that investigation in any manner," stated Public Information Officer Laura Montenegro, in an email to the Reformer.

Following his release from prison in New Hampshire, Bolster had several run-ins with the law in Vermont, one of which involved Jacobs.

On Jan. 4, 2017, an officer with the Brattleboro Police Department responded to the Vermont Probation and Parole office on Spring Tree Road in Brattleboro for the report of an assault. According to an affidavit filed in Windham Superior Court, Criminal Division, the alleged victim said Bolster had visited her apartment at just past midnight on New Year's Day. The victim claimed Bolster strangled her to the point that she blacked out and when she awoke she discovered she had a black eye.

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"[The victim] stated she fears for her life and is afraid of Bolster," notes the affidavit, which was submitted by former Brattleboro Police Officer Sean Wilson. "She stated 'he is crazy and unpredictable.' [The victim] stated that Bolster threatened 'to kill her' on numerous occasions."

Officers learned that the victim and Bolster had argued and fought on a number of other occasions and that Bolster was not to have any contact with the victim as part of his conditions of release for the Chesterfield incident. The affidavit also states that a juvenile, identified as "A.J." told police that Bolster had been with her "the entire night."

Bolster was charged with one count of first-degree aggravated domestic assault and two counts of domestic assault for the Jan. 1 incident. He was released on $5,000 bail, which was posted by AAA Bailbonds.

A year later, on Jan. 19, 2018, BPD Officer Colby Kerylow responded to a residence on Brattle Street for the report of an assault during which Bolster allegedly choked Jacobs. In documents filed with the court on March 1, 2018, witnesses testified Bolster had forced his way into the residence, "threatening to shoot everyone ..." before choking Jacobs.

One witness told the officer that Bolster had called earlier in the day, accusing Jacobs of "hanging out with different males." However, Jacobs told Kerylow that Bolster had called her repeatedly that day, insisting she go out for breakfast with him. When she refused, Bolster arrived at the home and "threw a fit" when she refused to go with him. "Jacobs stated Bolser never put his hands on her," notes the affidavit.

The affidavit, which was submitted on March 1, 2018, also notes that Conover, Bolster's probation and parole officer in New Hampshire, stated Bolster had been taken into custody on Jan. 24, 2018 for violating his parole and was scheduled for a parole hearing on Feb. 13, 2018.

As a result of the Jan. 19 incident, Bolster was charged with unlawful trespass into an occupied dwelling and disturbing the peace by phone. He was issued an abuse prevention order and told to stay away from Jacobs and four other people. His bail was set at $5,000, concurrent with the bail for the Jan. 1, 2107, incident, which meant he didn't have to post an additional $5,000.

Then, on July 7, 2018, Amy Fletcher, an officer with the BPD, responded to a complaint that Bolster was violating his abuse prevention order by being in contact with Jacobs.

"[H]e stated he wasn't with her," wrote Fletcher, who found them walking together in Brattleboro. "I noted he was standing approximately two feet away from Jacobs at the time of the encounter."

Bolster was arrested and taken into custody but later released.

Meanwhile, on June 12, 2018, the Vermont State Police began an investigation into the overdose death of a Wilmington man, Connor Rusin, 25.

In an affidavit filed with the court, Det. Sgt. Eric Albright with the Vermont State Police wrote that he learned Rusin had obtained heroin containing fentanyl from Bolster and Dalton Kissell, 28, of Westminster, the day of his death.

According to the affidavit filed by Albright, Kissell took heroin from Bolster, which was then sold to Rusin.

"Kissell said that Bolster knows that the heroin he sold to Rusin resulted in his death," wrote Albright. "He said that Bolster didn't care about this and only cares about money."

In November, Bolster, who was again in the custody of the N.H. Department of Corrections, and Kissell were charged in Vermont with sale of a regulated drug with death resulting. Bolster was ordered held on $50,000 bail following the overdose death charge. According to court documents, Advantage Bail Bonds posted a $50,000 bond, which wasn't actually cash, but a promise to pay the $50,000 if Bolster failed to make his court appearances.

Because the N.H. Department of Corrections has declined to comment on Bolster's status, it is unknown when he was released from custody and when he returned to his home in Hinsdale.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.


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