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Vt. Convict Sentenced For Leaving Work Crew

White River Junction — A convict who briefly escaped from a work crew in Norwich last fall pleaded guilty to an escape charge and possession of stolen property that was taken from a Norwich resident .

Christopher LaFlam, 27, of Vergennes, Vt., escaped from a cemetery work crew on Oct. 31, allegedly with Matthew Hinton, 23, of Brandon, Vt.

The duo persuaded a Norwich resident to give them a car ride to Hanover, where they were later captured inside the CVS Pharmacy on South Main Street.

LaFlam pleaded guilty to the felony escape charge Tuesday in Windsor Superior Court, as well as to a charge of possessing stolen property, a misdemeanor.

Judge Robert Gerety sentenced LaFlam to a one-to-five-year prison sentence that will run consecutive to his current sentence with credit for time already served.

Both men are incarcerated at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., for various convictions, including grand larceny.

LaFlam’s attorney, Mark Furlan, did not return a request for comment.

On Halloween, a small group of inmates on furlough asked to take a break from working in the Hillside Cemetery in Norwich. About 25 minutes later, the crews supervisor couldn’t locate LaFlam and Hinton.

State Police arrived with a canine unit and were trying to track the men when a call came in from a Norwich woman who said her husband had driven the men to the Dirt Cowboy Cafe in Hanover, not realizing they were escaped convicts, according to a police affidavit.

Hanover police soon found the men in CVS Pharmacy, where they were arrested.

While the men were missing, they also allegedly approached a home on Abigail Road belonging to Joanne McCormick.

McCormick told police that when she arrived home, she found a Coke bottle filled with water on a table and a few things were moved around. Officers asked McCormick to compile a list of items missing from her home.

McCormick’s list included two class rings, a gold watch, a red Swiss Army knife, gloves, athletic shoes, a pea coat, GPS, scarf, hooded parka and two credit cards, among other items, according to a police affidavit.

Hanover Police discovered that Hinton gave two rings to a clerk at the Circle K to sell at a jewelry store. The jewelry was recovered at Amidon Jewelers.

When Hinton was arrested, he was wearing a gray L.L. Bean coat, a Carhartt cap and black workout clothes, all of which belonged to McCormick, according to a police affidavit.

Hinton also had other items that McCormick said were missing, including a red Swiss Army knife and a gold watch.

LaFlam was arrested wearing a fleece jacket, L.L. Bean hat and winter gloves, which also belonged to McCormick.

A few months after the escape, prosecutors filed additional charges for the stolen property.

While LaFlam pleaded guilty to his two charges on Tuesday, Hinton’s case is still pending. He faces a felony burglary charge and an escape charge.

While Hinton faces a felony charge, LaFlam was only charged with possessing stolen property, a misdemeanor, because prosecutors could not prove that he entered the home, said Deputy Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill. However, prosecutors could prove that LaFlam possessed items from McCormick’s residence.

In an interview yesterday, McCormick, who is 62, said she and her husband never received all of their property back.

For instance, they received one of the credit cards, three pocket knives and a few items of clothing, but one credit card and a women’s pea coat, among other things, were never returned.

“It’s a crazy feeling when this happens to you,” McCormick said. “It was quite unnerving to come home.”

McCormick was working at Marion Cross School that day and had heard about the escaped convicts before she left. A coworker jokingly asked if she wanted someone to walk her to her car. When McCormick arrived home, she saw the Coke bottle on an antique piece of furniture and then saw medicine from a nearby cabinet sitting on the kitchen counter and immediately knew something was amiss.

McCormick tracked phone calls that day and saw that a call was placed at 11:48 a.m. and she walked in the door at 12:35 p.m.

“When I found that out, it made me shake even more to think that I was so close to walking in on them,” she said.

McCormick said she hopes the men receive counseling treatment and job training so that they can be taught a trade while in prison.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.