Two more charged with drug trafficking in Brattleboro
BURLINGTON — The crackdown on illegal drug trafficking in Southern Vermont continues with felony charges filed in federal court against two more persons, including the wife of a Brattleboro man being held in connection with a fatal drug overdose in Winhall in January, records show.
The Vermont Drug Task Force raided the Cross Street apartment of Terri St. Onge, 51, of Brattleboro last week after she made a series of sales of heroin that contained fentanyl, U.S. District Court records show.
Ramon "Pete" Sanchez, 44, from the Springfield/Holyoke, Mass., area also was arrested after 164 bags of heroin laced with fentanyl were found as police believe he was preparing to make a delivery in Brattleboro last week, a drug task force affidavit said.
More than a dozen defendants have been arrested over the last four months on federal or state charges since the Vermont Drug Task Force responded to a call for help in the Brattleboro area.
Sanchez is due to appear today in federal court in Burlington for a detention hearing.
He appeared briefly before Federal Magistrate John M. Conroy on Wednesday. Conroy ordered the government's detention request be postponed until the Pretrial Services Office could learn more about Sanchez.
"The government believes the defendant is an opiate user " Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Cate said in her request to delay the detention motion for 3 days.
The task force said it received information and descriptions of two men from the Springfield/Holyoke, Mass., area headed to deliver 150 bags of heroin to a person on Cross Street in Brattleboro on Tuesday.
They were riding in an older model white pickup truck and due to arrive between 3 and 4 p.m., the tipster said.
A truck carrying two men that matched the provided descriptions was spotted about 3:25 p.m. northbound on Interstate 91 and was followed into Brattleboro, police said. State Police Sgt. Ryan Wood pulled over the truck on South Main Street about 100 to 200 yards from Cross Street, a detective said. He said the second man, who was from Springfield, Mass., was detained, but later released.
Court papers never included the name of the person on Cross Street expected to receive the drugs.
The task force did execute a federal search warrant that same day at St. Onge's apartment on Cross Street and seized two composition notebooks that contained entries that appeared to be consistent with drug transactions and money paid or owed, court records show.
Also seized were multiple cell phones, including one with the number used to set up the three drug sales, a detective wrote.
St. Onge sold 20 bags of heroin on three dates — May 8, May 20 and June 4 — at her apartment at 11 Cross Street to a confidential informant, a Vermont Drug Task Force detective said in a court affidavit.
St. Onge appeared briefly in federal court with her court-appointed lawyer Robert Katims late Friday, but the case was continued until Wednesday. She told the court she was disabled and not working.
Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy ordered St. Onge held pending a hearing on the government's request that she be detained pending trial. Conroy said he had concerns about both her mental health and substance abuse issues.
Katims said his client has about a half dozen prescriptions due to a brain injury.
St. Onge was using the same cellphone that her husband, Denis A. St. Onge, 53, was using before he was charged in a separate drug investigation, records show. That investigation revealed Denis St. Onge provided the drugs that lead to the death of Thomas J. Devens, 31, in Winhall, according to his indictment.
Denis St. Onge initially pleaded not guilty in Vermont Superior Court in Bennington in January to charges of manslaughter and selling heroin resulting in the death of Devens.
The U.S. Attorney's Office agreed to take over the case in March due to the potential stiffer penalties in the federal court system — including a possible life sentence.
Denis St. Onge has been distributing heroin in Vermont since at least 2017, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathanael T. Burris wrote.
Winhall Police say they were dispatched to Winhall Hollow Road for the report of a drug overdose about 3:38 a.m. Jan. 16. When Winhall Officer Corey Revett arrived, a man was performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Devens and the officer joined in the CPR.
Revett also provided Devens two four-milligram doses of Narcan — the opioid-overdose antidote — but he was declared dead shortly after 4 a.m., Winhall Lt. Derrick Tienken said in a court affidavit.
Tienken said when he arrived about 5:15 a.m., he noticed Devens had a fresh puncture mark in the crook of his arm.
St. Onge was interviewed by police that evening and he admitted he purchased heroin for Devens "which he believed killed him," a police affidavit states. Phone records show the day before his death, Devens texted St. Onge's number to obtain drugs while he was in Brattleboro, the affidavit said.
Vermont's Chief Medical Examiner later confirmed the cause of death as a drug overdose.
St. Onge also has a 2017 Vermont conviction for heroin possession, records show.
Devens, who attended Leland & Gray Union High School in Townshend, was known for his work as a chef, including at Stratton Mountain and The Red Fox Inn in Winhall.
Burris, the federal prosecutor, in his motion to detain St. Onge, wrote the government's case against him "is strong" due in part to the exchanged text messages.
The document also states St. Onge revealed that during an earlier incident, Devens collapsed on St. Onge's kitchen floor after he provided the man heroin and watched him overdose. St. Onge said he revived Devens with naloxone and told him: "'Boy I'm never doing that again. I'm never getting you any ever again.'"
A woman dating Devens told police that the day before the fatal overdose the couple and a friend had gone to Massachusetts, and later to Keene, N.H. before stopping in Brattleboro at the library, records show. Devens made a series of texts to St. Onge, who later separated from his girlfriend briefly, records indicate.
Burris maintains there are no known combination of conditions of release that could protect the public from Denis St. Onge.
St. Onge, who remains jailed, has pleaded not guilty to a four-count indictment, including distribution of heroin/fentanyl on Jan. 15, the day before the fatal overdose.
The other three felony charges are for distribution of heroin on Sept. 25, 2017, Oct. 3, 2017 and Oct. 5, 2017, the indictment said.
His defense lawyer, Heather Ross of Burlington, recently petitioned to have an extra 30 days to prepare possible pre-trial motions.
Pre-trial motions are due this Thursday, but Ross, a former federal prosecutor, said a delay until July 27 will provide extra time to review additional discovery the defense expects to receive from prosecutors. Ross said that will provide her time to conduct a proper investigation surrounding the discovery materials and facts in the case.
Burris said he does not object. Judge Christina Reiss, who is hearing the case in Burlington, has not ruled on the request.
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