Police: Store Robber Was ‘Dope Sick’

Lebanon 19-Year-Old Pleads Not Guilty to Nov. 24 Holdup

Lea R. Dundas, left, is arraigned in Windsor Superior Court on Dec. 3, 2013, for allegedly robbing the Cumberland Farms in Wilder, Vt. with a knife. At right is attorney Elizabeth Kruska. 
(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Lea R. Dundas, left, is arraigned in Windsor Superior Court on Dec. 3, 2013, for allegedly robbing the Cumberland Farms in Wilder, Vt. with a knife. At right is attorney Elizabeth Kruska. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

White River Junction — A 19-year-old Lebanon woman told police she robbed the Cumberland Farms in Wilder with a knife because she was “dope sick” and had nothing to lose, according to a police affidavit.

In a written statement submitted to police on Monday, Lea R. Dundas said she was feeling sick and lonely while walking through Hartford on Nov. 24, which prompted her to rob the convenience store. She told police she was carrying a pocket knife.

“I would never stab or hurt anyone. I just used it so the cashier wouldn’t try to fight me afterwards,” Dundas wrote in her statement to police.

On Tuesday, Dundas pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of assault and robbery with a weapon in Windsor Superior Court. The penalty for the crime is imprisonment of not less than one year and no more than 15 years.

Reached by phone this week, Dundas declined to comment.

She also told police in the written statement that the next morning, she met a friend to “get some drugs so I wasn’t sick,” according to the affidavit. She told police she used $150 and “shot up” and felt better.

Police were later informed that the convenience store was missing $172.05, as well as cigarettes.

Dundas’ attorney, Elizabeth Kruska, declined to comment for this story. Dundas was released after her arraignment, and Judge Karen Carroll set a $20,000 unsecured appearance bond, meaning Dundas only has to pay it if she fails to appear at future court dates.

Deputy Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said on Wednesday that Dundas’ alleged crime is not that unusual.

“Unfortunately, we have seen a significant number of young people, both men and women, driven to desperate measures by their opiate addiction,” Cahill said in an email. “This is not an usual case in that respect.”

Retired Hartford Police Chief Glenn Cutting agreed with Cahill, and said crimes similar to Dundas’ are not terribly uncommon.

“I think we have a severe heroin and pill problem in Vermont and often times people who are addicted to heroin do things to enable their habit,” Cutting said.

Dundas is also charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, another felony, in a separate incident that took place in September in New Hampshire. Dundas is alleged to have acted as a lookout while others entered a West Lebanon man’s residence and allegedly stole a toolbox full of prescription medication.

Court documents show that Dundas works at the Circle K in West Lebanon.

A police affidavit gives the following account of the Nov. 24 armed robbery at the Cumberland Farms on Hartford Avenue.

At 11:15 p.m. on Nov. 24, the store clerk called Hartford police and reported that a petite, white female about 5 feet 4 inches tall wearing blue jeans, a light colored jacket and a blue knit hat had displayed a knife and taken money before fleeing the store. The clerk told police that the suspect demanded all of the money from the register, and when the clerk said, “No,” the robber allegedly said, “I think you better” while she leaned across the counter with a silver knife. The suspect then allegedly demanded that the clerk open the safe, but the clerk said she didn’t know how to get into the safe.

A witness told police he saw the individual flee into the woods. A K-9 unit was brought to the scene, which tracked the suspect’s path for about half a mile through the woods behind the Cumberland Farms, along railroad tracks and eventually to a home on Advent Lane. While searching for the robber, officers found a discarded pair of jeans, gray sweatshirt, cash and coins that totaled $48.95, Marlboro cigarettes and gloves, which were later traced to Dundas.

The woman at the Advent Lane home told police that a young female had knocked on her door earlier and asked for help. The individual told the homeowner that she was cold and lost and that she had gotten into a fight with her boyfriend and began walking and got lost, according to the police affidavit. The homeowner allowed the individual to use her cellphone and eventually drove the suspect to her boyfriend’s house in Hartford.

The next day, officers responded to a house on Division Street where Dundas had supposedly been dropped off the night before. Dundas agreed to talk to police at the Hartford police station, but officers alleged that she gave them a false report of what happened, according to the affidavit.

Hartford police interviewed several other witnesses and acquaintances of Dundas, including her boyfriend.

On Nov. 27, Dundas’ boyfriend called Hartford police and told an officer that he had spoken with Dundas, who had allegedly acknowledged that she robbed the Cumberland Farms, according to the affidavit. Dundas was included in the conference call with police and said she would come to the police station to provide a written statement.

On Monday, Dundas wrote a statement that said her boyfriend dropped her off at the Coop in White River Junction on Nov. 24 because they were having an argument and she acknowledged that on her way home, she had a pocket knife and robbed the Cumberland Farms, according to police. She told police that she fell down a steep ravine and some of her money and clothing fell out of a plastic bag.

“I was really scared, I couldn’t believe I actually did that, and I was just freaking out,” Dundas wrote in a statement to police.

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