Police: Suspect Leapt From I-91; Claremont Man Died at Scene
Law enforcement officials, including Windsor Police and a Vermont State Trooper, stand near the site where a person jumped from an Interstate 91 bridge in Windsor, Vt. on Jan. 9, 2014. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
Joseph Sylvester in a photograph from his Facebook page.
Windsor — A married father of three suspected in a burglary and an attempted sexual assault in Claremont Thursday morning jumped to his death from a bridge on Interstate 91 shortly after his van was spotted on the interstate.
Vermont State Police said Joseph Sylvester, 37, of Winter Street in Claremont, fell approximately 100 feet onto the pavement on Route 44 shortly after 11 a.m. and died at the scene.
Police said Sylvester parked the van slightly south of the bridge on the northbound side of I-91, crossed the median and eventually made his way onto a catwalk on the southbound side that had been installed during the reconstruction of the bridge last summer.
“Troopers with Vermont State Police exited their vehicles to make contact with Sylvester,” State Police said in a statement. “Before contact was made, Sylvester jumped from Interstate 91.”
Claremont Police Chief Alex Scott said authorities received a complaint at 10:45 a.m. about a burglary and attempted sexual assault at a home on Providence Avenue. The 26-year-old victim, who police said knew Sylvester, told police she believed he left in a white van. Police secured the scene and began to search for the vehicle. The victim was transported to Valley Regional Hospital for treatment, police stated.
Scott said information they received from friends who had received texts from Sylvester and seen a post on Facebook indicated he was likely headed to Vermont and may be suicidal. The information was communicated to Vermont State Police.
About 11 a.m., reports were received from other motorists of a white van on the interstate near the bridge on the northbound side near mile marker 55 and that someone was walking on the southbound side.
Claremont Police and New Hampshire State Police responded and arrived at the scene to find the van empty.
They spotted Sylvester on the construction catwalk directly over Route 44, Scott said in the news release.
Vermont State Police arrived and attempted to make contact with Sylvester but were unable to do so before he jumped just past 11:20 a.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Claremont City Councilor Nick Koloski said when he woke up Thursday morning, he saw an alarming message on Sylvester’s Facebook page.
The message, posted around 11 a.m., read: “I am sorry for letting every one down. I am a ... druggy and adulterer. And I don’t deserve to live any more. I hope my kids are better off with out me. I love you all very much. Goodbye.”
Koloski said after reading the post, he immediately went to the police station.
“I was in the police department’s parking lot within three minutes of the posting,” Koloski said, adding the department had already been notified of the situation.
Koloski said he and Sylvester graduated from Stevens High one year apart from each other. Sylvester graduated in 1995, according to his Facebook page. Although they weren’t close friends, Koloski said, “I’ve known him all my life.
“It’s a small community,” Koloski said. “My deepest condolences go out to the family on both sides. This affects a lot of people.”
The manager of Subway located on the corner of Elm and North streets in Claremont confirmed Sylvester had worked there, but she declined further comment.
Memorials to Sylvester were posted to his Facebook page throughout the afternoon and evening on Thursday.
Efforts to contact Sylvester’s wife, Heidi, and other friends and relatives at the Sylvesters’ Winter Street home on Thursday night were unsuccessful. A woman who answered the door gestured for a reporter to leave the property without speaking.
Scott said the entire episode, from when the call that reported the burglary and attempted assault was received by police to when Sylvester leapt from the I-91 bridge, lasted a little more than 40 minutes.
Scott said the investigation into the allegations against Sylvester is ongoing, and also that his department would continue to work with Vermont State Police.
Stephanie Dasaro, public information officer with Vermont State Police, said a reconstruction team is still working on the case.
“At this time, the death appears to be a suicide, and there are no signs of foul play; however, the case is ongoing pending additional investigation and the results of the autopsy,” Dasaro said in a news release.