Ronald Downes Jr appears in Criminal Court in St. Albans on Monday, June 18, 2018. Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier

By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

ST. ALBANS: Police arrested Ronald Downes, Jr., 42, of Berkshire last month in connection with thousands of dollars of missing money from Wal-mart in St. Albans.

According to newly filed court records, if police are correct, Downes could have stolen as much as $68,000 in one shot.

The scheme, according to police, had Downes “doing maintenance” on a cash machine at the store. That machine stores tens of thousands of dollars for clerks to check in and out when working as cashiers.

Video of the alleged embezzlement was also filed as evidence, showing Downes taking out cash from the machine, putting it in his gloves, and then into his pockets.

According to Wal-mart, Downes is suspected of stealing more than a quarter of a million dollars in the four months he was employed there.

The store turned over 21 different recordings from their surveillance video, allegedly showing the thefts, ranging in amounts from $8,706 to $68,248. In all, about $262,555 came up missing from the machine during the time  Downes was employed to do maintenance on it.

According to the Assistant Store Manager, Ryan Hennebury, Downes would remove the cassettes of cash, and place them behind the machine, out of view of the camera- an action that is against store policy. This is when Downes is suspected of removing the cash.

After the store began auditing the cash inside the machine twice a week noting shortages began in late 2017, Hennebury said they noticed a pattern with the missing money.

“We were able to prove that on the shifts that (Downes) was on the closing shift, the recycler would show a shortage,” wrote Hennebury in a sworn statement to the court. “You can see on many occasions (Downes) pretending to vacuum, but the vacuum would not move.”

Hennebury also wrote in his sworn statement that during these periods, Downes was the only employee to “service” the machines between the audits.

In January, the store moved one of the cameras to capture what was going on. In one video, Downes can be seen removing $100 bills, hiding them in his pockets, according to Hennebury’s statement.

When a Wal-Mart Asset Protection Manager confronted Downes, he allegedly admitted to “taking $4,000-$5,000” over the course of a few months from the machine.

The store plans to pursue prosecution in the case, according to Hennebury’s statement. It is not clear if that includes civil prosecution.

A written statement was also included in the case which included the following, “I opened the cash recycler and took money out of one of the cassettes. The money I took was used to pay bills I had. This happened over a couple of months. I estimate the cash to be around $4,000-$5,000 (over) the course of the time. I am deeply sorry and regret every decision I made when I did this.”

That statement was allegedly witnessed by two other Wal-Mart managers and signed by Downes.

When police contacted Downes, he declined to talk to them, instead, invoking his fifth amendment rights to remain silent.

According to his criminal record, Downes only has one prior arrest. That was in 2015 for disorderly conduct, in which he paid a $50 fine.

Downes hired a private attorney for the case and pleaded not guilty to Embezzlement on Monday. He was released on conditions. If convicted, the felony charge could carry a prison term up to 10 years and a fine up to $10,000.


Ethan Gratton enters Franklin County Superior Court in St. Albans in January 2017 for his arraignment on murder and attempted murder charges. File photo / Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier

By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

ST. ALBANS: In a last-minute filing to the court, Ethan Gratton asked the judge to postpone his upcoming murder trial and grant him a new public defender.

“I do not believe my lead attorney, Steve Dunham or my co-counsel Rosie Chase are prepared for my trial.” Gratton wrote to the Judge. “Steve Dunham is not competent to win over any jury.”

Gratton’s concerns are based on his observations of Dunham, according to what he wrote to the Judge, “I have grave concerns about his state of mind and his inability to communicate with other people, much less a jury.”

Steve Dunham, left, confers with co-counsel Rosie Chase, during a sidebar with State’s Attorney Jim Hughes and Judge Gregory Rainville at a bail review hearing for Gratton in 2017.   File photo  Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier

He cited the last pre-trial conference, where, according to Gratton, the Judge could not understand much of Dunham’s mumblings.


“(A review of the case) will make it evident that Mr. Dunham struggles to string together coherent sentences for the court, or anyone else, to understand.” wrote Gratton.

The case revolves around a shooting which left 57-year-old David Hill dead and seriously injured 27-year old Mark Brito, both of Fairfax.

Gratton was charged with second-degree murder for Hill’s death and attempted second-degree murder for the shooting of Brito.

Gratton recognized in his two-page letter to the judge that Dunham has been practicing law for 28 years, but throughout the 18 months that Gratton has worked with Dunham, he has lost all “faith” in his defense team.

Gratton requested his case be assigned to a “Serious Felony Unit” attorney, which is not abnormal, according to Gratton’s letter.

“I would rather request a new attorney now, than wait to be convicted of murder, and attempted murder, due to ineffective counsel,” Gratton wrote, noting that then he would have to file for post-conviction relief.

Gratton ended his letter to the Judge, “Thank you, Your Honor, in advance for your compassion, understanding, and immediate attention to my dire situation.”

The trial, which was scheduled to begin with a jury draw Tuesday, June 12th, has now been put on hold until the Judge makes a decision on Gratton’s request. If convicted, the 28-year-old man faces 40 years to life in prison.


Ethan Gratton enters Franklin County Superior Court in St. Albans in January 2017 for his arraignment on murder and attempted murder charges. Gregory J. Lamoureux, photo

By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

Ethan Gratton, the suspect in a murder and attempted murder in Georgia just after New Year’s Day 2017 is set to face a jury next week on the two felony charges.

If all goes well, the jury of twelve will be selected on Tuesday with opening arguments slated for later that day or first thing Wednesday morning. Continue reading “GEORGIA MURDER TRIAL SET FOR NEXT WEEK”

Hornet Pitching Silences Minutemen

Enosburg Catcher Noah Swainbank lines up for a play at the plate, getting a Mill River player out during their 9-1 win on Wednesday afternoon. The Hornets  advance to the quarterfinal round, hosting Fair Haven on Saturday at 4:30pm.   Gregory J. Lamoureux photo

By Ruthie Laroche
For the County Courier

The Minutemen found hits hard to come by on Wednesday as Brayden Howrigan and Nik Sabrowski combined to allow only one run on the evening against visiting Mill River.

Sabrowski started the game for the hometown Hornets going four innings, striking out six, allowing four hits, and walking one.

Howrigan took the mound in the fifth, getting six of his nine outs on strikeouts and walking two.

“My pitch count was higher than I’d like to see but other than that it was a good game. We came out and battled and kept competing,” said Sabrowski.

Defensively, the Hornets played a flawless game, which was excellent for Sabrowski and Howrigan.

“Defense is key to a pitcher. If you don’t have that, you have the feeling that you have to go after guys and take them yourself. If something happens, it just drains your confidence. Defense is essential to a pitcher. It allows you to go out and find your groove. You can pitch to contact, and when you pitch to contact, you end up striking out more people because you have more confidence and throw more strikes,” said Sabrowski

The Enosburg offense combined to score eight runs over seven innings, thanks to numerous hits from various Hornet batters.

Parker Snow, Sabrowski, Johnathan Paquette, David Antillon, Howrigan, Karson Fortin, and Colby Geddes all had hits on the evening.

“They came out and played like they have all season long. Defensively, we played a great game. We didn’t have any errors, and we had a couple of balls that we probably shouldn’t have gotten to, but we got to them,” said Enosburg head coach Rodney Burns, “Offensively we didn’t hit as well as we have all season, but we didn’t strike out any more than three times. We were putting the ball in play and trying to make things happen.”

Second baseman, Karson Fortin, who is playing his first full year on varsity, shared his thoughts on the upcoming game with fifth seed Northhaven.

“It was a good team win for us; we really needed that. We need to go out swinging more in our next game–be more aggressive at the plate,” said Karson Fortin.

Burns and the team had the pleasure of welcoming back Alec Burns, Rodney’s son, who recently completed his freshman year of college. Alec attended Colby Sawyer College and played on the college baseball team.

“After coming back from a college season, I’ve come back with a lot of tips about hitting and fielding mechanics, and base running,” said Alec.

Alec coached first base for the playdown game on Wednesday afternoon, and his former teammates were glad to have him back.

“I like Alec as my base coach; he’s doing really well with us,” said Fortin.

Alec rejoined his father as an assistant coach, a new chapter in their ongoing baseball relationship.

“I love coming back and coaching with my Dad. I’ve been playing for him all the way up through, so this is a different experience. It’s cool getting to play with him and getting to watch these guys. We won the championship together last year, and it’s great to see how they have stepped up. It’s going to be fun watching them all the way through,” said Alec.

Last year’s Enosburg baseball team won the Division III State Tournament at Centennial Field, and Alec is glad to see this year’s team doing so well.

“This team is very solid defensively, they hit the ball one through nine, and the pitching has been fantastic for us so far,” said Alec.

Burns appreciates the opportunity to have his son on the field.

“It’s great to have Alec back! He’s doing a great job for us at first base. He’s smart and reads the pitchers well. It’s great having him around, and he’s an asset to the team,” said Burns.

Having coached in Enosburg for years, Coach Burns has had the opportunity to see many players graduate from his program.

“I love having my players come back. They’re always willing to help out in any way they can. To see them as often as I do, on the field in a practice or a game, is a great feeling,” said Burns, “There’s nothing I want more than to have my players come back, to be around, and to visit and be part of the group. I love that.”


Highgate: Vermont State Police are reporting a shooting incident that began with a burglary in Highgate early on Sunday morning.

According to Detective Sergeant John MacCallum, the suspect entered the victim’s home at about 5:10 am, and engaged in assaulting the resident inside.

Police did not identify the victim, nor did they identify the location of the incident, but did indicate they believed it was a burglary gone wrong.

According to MacCallum, the assailant pulled out a firearm during the struggle and shot the resident, causing non-life threatening injuries before fleeing the area.

MacCallum said no other incidents were reported in the area, indicating that it is likely an isolated incident.

Police did not release a description of the suspect. If you have any information that could help lead police to the suspect, you are asked to call the St. Albans Police Barracks at 524-5993.


According to the Vermont State Police, Kolby Gerrow, 19, of Enosburg is suspected of attempted sexual assault and lewd and lascivious conduct after a juvenile female stepped forward to report the unwanted sexual advances and lewd conduct, according to police.

“Police obtained multiple statements and obtained other evidence supporting the allegations against Gerrow,” wrote Detective Richard Stepien in a press statement.

Few details were released publicly, but Gerrow is expected to be arraigned on May 31st for the charges of Lewd and Lascivious Conduct with a child as well as attempted sexual assault.

Richard A. Mercy

FRANKLIN (Lake Carmi)– Richard A. Mercy, age 77, passed away on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, at his home, surrounded by his loving family and friends.

He was born in St. Albans on May 20, 1940, to the late Alton and Dorthey (Longley) Mercy.

Richard was raised in Richford and graduated from Richford High School Class of 1958. He was a 20-year Veteran of the United States Navy as a Submariner on the USS Ethan Allen, following a long and distinguished career he received his honorable discharge as a Lieutenant. During his career he mentored many men and women serving in the Armed Services, he would demand the best out of people and accepted no excuses.

He had many hobbies and interests including, golfing, fishing, gardening, cheering on the New York Yankees and Ohio State Buckeyes, enjoying a Bud heavy and going to The Price Is Right game show in New Hampshire. Richard enjoyed time spent on the lake with his family, friends, and the dogs that he cherished. He loved the many hours boating on the lake making sure not to hit the ‘friggen’ rocks or the weeds.

Richard’s family will remember him for his many qualities including his sense of humor, being an exceptional provider for his family and friends, his ability to tell you exactly how he felt with “no filter” and giving the shirt off his back expecting nothing in return. During Richard’s illness he was in constant pain, never complained, and never gave up.

He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather, supporting his children and grandchildren in all aspects, particularly sporting events, where he would travel to great lengths to attend their activities.

He is survived by his wife, Lorraine (Wright) Mercy of Franklin, his high school sweetheart, married on July 21, 1961; his children, Jeffrey Mercy and his wife Tracy of Tecumseh, Michigan, Tammara Mercy and her soulmate James Fitzgerald of Fairfax, Vermont; grandchildren, Samantha Mercy, Haley Mercy, J’Nice Kobzik and her husband Jay, Hayden Fitzgerald, and William Fitzgerald; great-grandchildren, Kylie Kobzik and Kaden Kobzik; foster brother, Peter Upton, and many close friends and neighbors.

A memorial service with military honors will be held on Sunday, June 3, 2018, at 3:00 PM at Spears Funeral Home, 96 Dickenson Ave. Enosburg Falls, VT.  

Visitation will be held on Sunday from 2:00 PM until the hour of the service.

For those who wish, contributions in Richard’s memory may be made to the Richford American Legion Scholarship Fund, 35 River Street, Richford, VT 05476.

Claire R. (Noiseux) Vaillancourt

SHELDON – Claire R. (Noiseux) Vaillancourt, age 90, widow of Rosaire Vaillancourt, passed away following a brief stay at the Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans, VT. Friday, April 27, 2018.

She was born August 28, 1927, in Enosburg Falls, Vt, the daughter of the late Philippe Aubert and Aurore (Beauregard) Noiseux.

Claire lived most of her life on the same family farm in Sheldon beginning from the age of five when she along with her parents and the herd of cows transitioned from the Enosburg farm during the great depression. A home she cherished to the end of her life.  She began her education in a one-room schoolhouse in Sheldon often hitching a ride with the milkman on his morning route. To maintain her French heritage she was enrolled at all-girl boarding school, St Andre de Sutton, in Sutton PQ. She completed her education at Enosburg High School graduating in 1946.

Claire met the love of her life, Rosaire, when she helped serve at his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary at the church parish hall. They married October 3, 1949, at St John the Baptist Church in Enosburg Falls and traveled to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon. As Claire was an only child, Rosaire moved to her family’s dairy farm. It was a farm that Claire and Rosaire would continue to improve and grow both in land and children. She raised seven children teaching them to appreciate the finer things in life; music, art, and fashion.  She was a devout Catholic who sent her children to Catholic schools in Saint Albans. Education was valued and all of her children graduated from college. She enjoyed vacationing in Maine in the summer with the children and her sister-in-law Pearl Vaillancourt and her children, and frequent trips to visit relatives throughout Quebec. She also toured the United States with her husband and their nephew Fernand Bourbeau and his wife Margot from Trois Rivieres, PQ.

Claire was best known for her fine cuisine and hosted many dinner events and large family gatherings.  She had a flair for fashion and expertly sewed many designer dresses with fabric she would select with her favorite cousin Madeleine Desroches who spent much time on the farm with her and was like a sister.  She provided well for her family growing a large garden every summer and canning the bounty in the fall. But the family was the most important part of life. She was key in maintaining contact with both sides of her extended family and had daily contact with her special sister-in-law Frances Vaillancourt.

She is survived by her children Denis of Franklin, his wife Cindy and their daughters Andrea and Dena; Madeleine Chapman of South Royalton, her husband Pete, their son Christopher and his wife Megan; Pierre of Sheldon, his wife Mary and their children Josh, his wife Sarah, Shawn, Evan and Chelsea; Lise LaRose of Enosburg Falls, her husband Mark and their children Renae and Danielle; Louise Greene of East Berkshire, her husband Jim and their children Betsy, her husband Rob, Michelle and Caleb; Paul Vaillancourt of Franklin, his wife Christine and their children Karly and Emma; and Philip Vaillancourt of Sheldon, his wife Lisette and their children Jonah, Emma and Megan. She also leaves behind great-grandchildren, Noah, Del, Rye, Ava, Jonah Jr, and Charlee Grace, and numerous nephews, nieces, great nephews, great nieces, great-great nephews and great-great nieces.

A Mass of Christian burial will be held Saturday, May 5, 2018, at 11 AM at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 222 Missisquoi St, Enosburg Falls, Vt with Rev. Karl Hahn officiating. Interment will follow at St John the Baptist Cemetery.

Visiting hours will be held Friday, May 4, 2018, from 4-7 PM at the Spears Funeral Home, 96 Dickinson Ave. Enosburg Falls, Vt

For those who wish, contributions in Claire’s memory may be made to Franklin County Home Health Agency, 3 Home Health Circle, St. Albans, Vt 05478 or to a charity of choice.

Lawrence E. Therrien Sr

SWANTON – Lawrence E. Therrien Sr, age 79, passed away on Thursday, April 26, 2018 in the comfort of his own home surrounded by his loved ones.

He was born in Highgate, but a long-time resident of Swanton. Lawrence was the son of the late Abraham and Marie (Michette) Therrien, of Pike River, Quebec.

Lawrence attended St. Anne’s Academy. On August 1, 1975 Lawrence married the love of his life, Elaine J. (St. Francis) Therrien after being together for fourteen years.

Lawrence loved to fish, bike ride, work on cars and loved going with his father for minnows. Lawrence worked at Gage Auto in St. Albans in 1965 for seven years.

He is survived by his wife Elaine, their two sons, Lawrence E. Therrien Jr. and wife Melodie of St. Albans, David A. Therrien and wife Holly of Swanton; sisters, Lorraine Therrien of Rutland, and Lucille Kittredge of Waterbury; 6 grandchildren, Cory Paquette of St. Albans, Eugene Bessette of Richford, Lawrence Therrien III of St. Albans, Jennifer Therrien of Swanton, Samantha Therrien of St. Albans, Christopher Therrien of Swanton and seven great grandchildren. Besides his parents, Lawrence was predeceased by his brother Roland (Smiley) Therrien, and an infant brother.

Lawrence’s family would like to thank some special friends and helpers; James Boudreau, Linda Calin, Howard Rich and many others. They would also like to extend appreciation to GMTA for transportation to and from dialysis, and NWMC dialysis department for helping and providing care to him for the past seven years.

In keeping Lawrence’s wishes, there will be no services.

For those who wish, memorial contributions may be made to Elaine J. Therrien, 12 Andy Avenue, Swanton, Vermont 05488.