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Fugitives Arrested In Hanover, Pair Allegedly Fled Norwich Work Crew

— Two convicts who briefly went on the lam from a cemetery work crew in Norwich before they were captured in Hanover pleaded not guilty to charges yesterday and were back behind bars.

During six eventful hours on Wednesday, Christopher LaFlam, 26, and Matthew Hinton, 22, persuaded a Norwich resident they encountered to give them a lift into Hanover and, once there, coaxed another stranger into buying jewelry that authorities believe they had stolen, Norwich Police Chief Doug Robinson said.

“Go figure,” Robinson said in a interview yesterday.

The men were captured inside the CVS Pharmacy on South Main Street in Hanover. They refused to give their names to police, and one of the men fled to the back of the store presumably to look for an exit, before being apprehended, Hanover Police Chief Nick Giaccone said.

In Windsor Superior Court yesterday, LaFlam and Hinton pleaded not guilty to charges of escape, which carries a five-year maximum sentences, and were sent to Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., in lieu of $1,000 bail.

The men were extradited from New Hampshire after appearing in Lebanon Circuit Court on Thursday.

Robinson said authorities anticipate filing additional charges against the men for allegedly burglarizing a home on Abigail Road in Norwich and possibly others. That investigation, Robinson said, is ongoing.

Both men had served time for an array of convictions, including grand larceny and prescription drug possession.

An affidavit from Vermont State Police Trooper Christopher Blais gives the following account.

Around 10 a.m. Wednesday a crew of seven inmates on furlough asked to take a break from working in the Hillside Cemetery in Norwich. The crew’s supervisor, Nick Burnham, granted the request.

LaFlam asked for toilet paper, said he had to go to the bathroom, and went off into the woods.

Twenty-five minutes later, Burnham noticed that LaFlam and Hinton had not returned to work. Burhnam walked into the nearby woods, and found several drinking cups and a roll of toilet paper.

Burnham loaded the remaining five members of the crew into his van, “blew on the horn several times,” and called his bosses, who then called Norwich police.

Vermont State Police soon arrived with a canine unit and tracked the men to the intersection of Bragg Hill Road and Happy Hill Road.

Then, they were notified that a homeowner on Abigail Road, 1.5 miles away, had reported a burglary. (Because of incorrect information provided by police, the Valley News on Thursday said the home that was burglarized was on Bragg Hill Road.) Around the same time, a woman called Norwich police and said that her husband — apparently unaware that the men were escaped convicts — had given them a ride to the Dirt Cowboy Cafe in Hanover.

Hanover police were notified and soon found the men in the CVS pharmacy, where they arrested them without incident.

Authorities said they were unsure why the men were inside the CVS pharmacy.

The news of the escape spread quickly in Norwich on Wednesday, as residents gathered at the Norwich Inn before the town’s annual Halloween festivities, when parents took their kids trick-or-treating to downtown homes. Some residents, when they heard that the furloughed prisoners may still be in the wood somewhere, expressed surprise that they were being deployed onto work crews in town.

Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.