By Ruthie Laroche
For the County Courier

George and Rolande Kane have lived in the brick house on VT Route 105 since May of 1954. Today, their family continues to operate the farm, and the legacy that they built in Franklin County continues to grow as four generations spread their roots.

“We bought the house from Ben Wilder’s widow Hazel, no money down, just a shake of the hand,” said George.

George had fond memories of visiting the Wilder farm in his youth, and the opportunity to own it was too good to pass up.

“I came down to the Wilder farm with my father Roscoe when I was eight years old. Ben Wilder had an office in what is now our bedroom,” explained George.

“Hazel Wilder said this house was built for children,” said Rolande, remembering a chat with Hazel.

The Kanes didn’t disappoint. They had six children when they moved into the home and went on to have nine children in all: Maureen, Margaret, Paula, Michael, James and Janet, Celeste, Brenda, and Marc.

The spring that George and Rolande moved their family from East Sheldon posed some challenges, one of which was moving the animals.

“I remember seeing George walking down the road with the herd led by a police escort,” said Rolande with a chuckle.

George drove his 40 cows along the East Sheldon Road, down the Kane Road, across the bridge in North Sheldon and down VT Rte. 105 toward Enosburgh, joining them with the Wilder’s 20. The family rolled up their sleeves and got to work immediately.

“You better believe I worked!” said George with a smile, “I cut logs and everything else to make those payments.”

George supplemented the farm income with sugaring and renovating old houses, and Rolande, who had been a teacher before she married George, eventually returned to teach in Enosburgh.

George first saw Rolande in 1944, shortly after she moved to town to teach; she was going to a movie in Enosburgh.

“We were both in the lobby waiting for the second show,” Rolande explained.

Rolande was born and raised in Swanton and went to St. Anne’s High School. During the war years, she attended Trinity College in Burlington where she spent time working in a mill during the summer folding bandages for soldiers.

The Kanes’ daughters laughed as they recounted a favorite story told by their mother. At Trinity, in Rolande’s day, the incoming students had to purchase a black, woolen graduation gown which they were required to wear to Chapel, daily.

Rolande recalled many mornings dashing out with her pajamas under her graduation gown because she was worried she would be late to Chapel.

That same gown was worn by most of George and Rolande’s children and even some of their grandchildren when they graduated from college.

After graduation Rolande taught in Enosburgh for three years; during that time her relationship with George blossomed.

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Barrette Ford


Five St. Albans residents have been arrested by the Federal Agents after there was an investigation linked to the purchasing firearms for other people, bypassing background check regulations.

According to recently released court records, Tyson Wells, Dara Bessette, Sierra Lacoste, Laci Baker, and Megan West were indicted in the scheme. Continue reading “FIVE PURCHASE, TRADE GUNS FOR DRUGS”


Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

Vermont State Police say they apprehended a St. Albans man early Thursday morning after he stole a 2016 GMC Acadia that was parked at the Littleton (NH) Hospital.

OnStar tracked that vehicle to Kirby, Vermont, where State Police began looking for it, according to spokesperson Adam Silverman. The officers would later see the stolen vehicle on Burrington Bridge Road in Lyndonville.

Police were able to later identify the driver as 41-year old Everett Simpson of St. Albans. Continue reading “VSP: ST. ALBANS MAN ASSAULTS POLICE AFTER STEALING SUV”


Franklin’s tile spring sticks out of the ground in front of the Town’s water reservoir just off Jones Road.                                                                                                             Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier

By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

FRANKLIN: With an abnormally hot summer, the Town of Franklin is seeing a slowdown in the water coming into their reservoir, causing the town to issue a conserve water warning to its users.

Like many postings on the subject nationwide when water becomes a scarcity, the message is to reduce the amount of water being used. From not running the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth to refraining from washing your car at home, locals are asked to do their part in making sure the current water goes as far as it can.

Marshall Ploof, the water district commissioner, spoke on the topic to the County Courier on Wednesday morning, the day after the town issued the notice to about 90 users of the water system.

Read the entirety of this article in this week’s County Courier.


By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

RICHFORD: About a hundred residents came out to listen to state experts and express their discontent with their view of the condition of Richford’s water.

Ben Montross, the compliance manager for Vermont’s drinking water program said what Richford is experiencing is not a new issue for the state, but it’s been more than a decade since Richford has seen an abnormally high test.

The issue comes from a test taken in May, indicating a high level of haloacetic acids within the drinking water, a substance the EPA has designated as a carcinogen if consumed at high levels for long periods of time.

The haloacetic acids within the water are a chemical byproduct of treating the drinking water with chlorine, a process used to kill any microorganisms that may be living in the water. Also in the water from time to time are micro-organic matter such as small bits of leaves and grass that mix with the chlorine, ultimately producing small amounts of haloacetic acids.

It takes a bit of time for the haloacetic acids to develop after chlorine and organic matter mix. This means that in Richford’s drinking supply, the water that is coming out of the tap at someone’s house far away from the water supply could actually have a higher level than the water leaving the treatment facility.

That’s why the tests are taken at taps throughout the town, at actual water consumer’s properties.

The May 2018 test, registered at 0.118 mg/L, putting the four-quarter average for Richford’s water above the government’s high limit of 0.060 mg/L. Officials warned that the high test will stay in their calculation for the next three quarters, so having a high average through May of 2019 should not be alarming.

Although the test is only conducted once every three months, it is merely a snapshot in time, showing the level in the water that day. This can be deceiving as the levels in the water can fluctuate significantly from day to day.

It is suspected that the test in May was conducted relatively close to a weather event that would have given a higher reading. According to Amy Galford, compliance analyst at the VT Department of Environmental Conservation, said warmer weather and high rainfall are typical causes for a high test.

Instead, it is likely that the levels of haloacetic acid within the water supply was on the rise for four or five days before the test and began to fall for four or five days after the test, according to Galford.

That being said, Galford was unable to point to a specific storm that could have caused the higher levels, so it is possible that the test was taken on a day that the levels were still rising, or already falling, indicating that there could have been a higher level in the water supply at some point.

According to state officials, of the 410 municipal water supplies within the state, about 35 of them are engineered like Richford’s, they collect surface water and treat it. The remainder uses other methods, like wells, which has lower organic content than surface water, preventing haloacetic acids from having the chance of forming.

Several residents shouted and interrupted the presenters, obviously angered over what they perceived as a lack of urgency and concern by officials about the high registering test.

“Why should we be paying for water that could make us sick,” shouted one resident.

“We’re not the water operators,” Montross said, noting that they could take that up with the town. The Panel, from the state of Vermont, on Thursday, was there merely to inform the public about the health issues and answer questions in regard to those health concerns.

“I’ll take it up with the town about my water bill, but I just want to know how to protect my husband, kids, and yes my new puppy,” said resident Barb Beauregard.

Montross recommended purchasing an activated charcoal water filter for those who are concerned about their exposure, sold under many brands, but the most common of which is Britta.

Those filters will remove the haloacetic acids within the water, as well as a few other contaminants that could harm the drinker.

Ray Soloman, a Drinking Water and Groundwater expert with the state said Richford’s water supply is one of the better supplies in the state, in fact, he helped to engineer the project when it was built several decades ago.

The hurdle of adding an activated charcoal filter to the entire system is cost. Those filters are expensive and would have to be replaced on a regular basis, according to Montross.

Cost is also the primary barrier for sampling more often. At about $150 per sample, it would be costly to test more than once every three months, especially because the town sampes from multiple locations throughout the water supply to get a better indicator.

“You have to remember, 99% of the water you use is not used for drinking,” Soloman said, “it’s used for bathing, washing your clothes, etc.”

One resident posed the question to the panel, “If you lived here, would you drink the water?”

Soloman said yes, as did four of the five-panel members said yes, but one person, Sarah Vose, a Toxicologist for the State of Vermont said she would not, instead she would drink bottled water, as she does on a regular basis now.

“But, that’s a question you have to decide for yourself,” Vose said.

According to Vose, the likelihood of contracting cancer from your water is around 1 in 100,000.

“You’re more apt to get cancer from environmental issues you can control,” Vose said, “like smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise.”

Ultimately, the water in the system is largely safe. That was the message from Montross. Unless you have a compromised immune system, elderly, pregnant, or a toddler, it is likely you will not sustain any health complications from drinking Richford’s water.

A test conducted on July 20th just came back, according to state officials, indicating that the levels of haloacetic acids were in the 0.030-0.038 mg/L range, well below the federal guidelines, but those tests were not conducted in the interval required for testing every three months, so they will not be calculated into the average.

Instead, officials will be testing the water in the coming weeks, averaging that new number with the last three quarters.

Montross stressed that residents should look more at the number for each test for the next three quarters, and not the average because the average will be skewed by May’s high test.

Officials were clear to point out that unlike contaminants found in well water in the southern part of the state two years ago, this water condition is unlikely to affect other water supplies throughout the Richford area.


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”


By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

BERKSHIRE: According to the Vermont State Police, Derrick Johnson was intoxicated behind the wheel just after midnight when he lost control and crashed a four-door Honda sedan on Water Tower road in Berkshire on Tuesday. According to court records, that vehicle was owned by Sue Courchaine of Eden.

When police arrived, rescue crews had already removed the occupants of the vehicle and were attending to them medically, according to police.

Derrick Johnson, 21, of Richford is lead into Franklin Criminal Court by Public Defender Steve Dunham on Tuesday afternoon. Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier

Police believe Johnson had three passengers with him, his girlfriend, Lee Courchaine and two male friends, Michael Paquette and Adam Sylvester.

When asked how fast he was traveling, Johnson told the trooper between 70-80 miles per hour. He also told the trooper that road conditions played a part in the crash.

Trooper Nathan Quealy wrote in a statement to the court that Sylvester, who was seated in the rear passenger seat at the time of the crash, sustained the most major injuries.

“As of the writing of this affidavit Sylvester is in critical condition, is scheduled to have an arm amputated, (and) is believed to have sustained a traumatic brain injury. (Sylvester) is still unconscious and unresponsive. His current condition is a direct result of the injuries he sustained as a result of the crash,” wrote Trooper Quealy.

Quealy updated Sylvester’s condition early Wednesday morning after he succumbed to his injuries at UVM Medical Center.

Johnson was held on $100,000 bail at Northwest Correctional Center in St. Albans until his arraignment on Tuesday afternoon. He was charged with DUI with serious injuries resulting, reckless endangerment, and Grossly Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle.

He was released on $25,000 unsecured bond as well as conditions including he does not contact anybody directly related to the crash, he does not consume any alcohol, he does not drive under any circumstance, as well as a 24-hour curfew that will be ordered through his current probation officer.

All totaled, Johnson faces up to 31 years and a fine up to $26,000 if convicted on all counts.

The charges and total years may change now that the DUI can be filed as a death resulting case, instead of a serious injury case.

Johnson provided police with a preliminary breath test, indicating his blood/alcohol content was 0.143%, approximately 40 minutes after the crash. That’s more than one and a half times the legal limit for driving on Vermont roads.

Johnson provided another breath test, this time about two hours and 10 minutes after the crash, where the machine indicated he was still under the influence with a BAC of 0.112%.

When police initially asked Johnson if he had anything to drink that evening, Johnson told police he had one or two beers, about 3 hours before the crash. As the officer continued to question Johnson, that story changed to two or three beers and later changed again to about 10 bud light cans and bottles.

Quealy reported finding about a half a dozen empty beer cans inside the vehicle.

Quealy described four indications of Johnson’s impairment as he asked Johnson to walk a straight line including an inability to walk without using his arms for balance, did not touch heel to toe, an incorrect number of steps, and lost balance while turning.

Quealy said he asked Johnson to balance on one leg but he was unable to do so without putting his other foot down and required putting his arms out for balance.

Johnson told Quealy he was traveling to Enosburgh from Richford when the crash happened, according to the trooper, but couldn’t remember how long they had been traveling.

Johnson was serving probation for possession of stolen property valued at more than $900, according to public records.

This is at least the fourth fatal crash on Franklin County roadways in six weeks.

There were three fatal crashes in April, killing Raymond Barrett, 74, of Swanton, Michael Smith, 33, of Berkshire, and Ada Sorenson, 16, of Fairfax.


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.