3 charged in Springfield, Vt., kidnapping; link to Bennington, Vt., murder possible

Published: 8/5/2022 7:30:45 PM
Modified: 8/6/2022 3:09:48 PM

A man found shot to death in Bennington, Vt., on Wednesday was wanted as one of four people who allegedly kidnapped a Springfield, Vt., man days earlier and held him at gunpoint in an apparent dispute over drugs, according to court documents released Friday.

The other three people — Jesse LaFlam Sr., 49, and Christopher Merritt, 40, both of Springfield, and Zachary Russell, 25, of Bennington — appeared in court Friday on felony charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and aiding in the commission of assault and robbery with a weapon.

The men also were charged with the misdemeanor offense of interference with access to emergency services.

LaFlam and Merritt each pleaded not guilty during remote appearances in Windham County Superior criminal court. The judge ordered them held without bail while awaiting trial.

Russell, who appeared in Windsor County criminal court, chose to delay entering his pleas for 24 hours since he could not obtain an attorney. He also is being held without bail while awaiting arraignment next week.

The other alleged conspirator, Patrick Mullinnex, 38, of Springfield, was found fatally shot in a Bennington apartment on Wednesday. Bennington police, who are investigating the killing, said he was shot several times in the chest.

The suspected shooter, Raul Cardona, 28, of Springfield, Mass., is being sought by authorities.

It was unclear as of Friday whether there was a connection between Mullinnex’s killing and the kidnapping case. Vermont State Police referred questions to Bennington police, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Friday afternoon.

According to Vermont State Police’s statement of probable cause for the charges, the four accused men entered a home on Stanley Road in Springfield in the wee hours of Saturday. The group restrained at gunpoint and assaulted the homeowner, Travis Osmer, as well as Ashley Osmer, three young children and visitors Dustine Lombard, Brandi Vilkauskas and Michael Myers, the statement shows. All the people in the Osmer residence live in Springfield.

Investigators said LaFlam, Merritt, Russell and Mullinnex removed Myers from the home by threat of force and robbed him of cash. They then restrained him for some time at a location on Cummings Road in Chester, Vt., police said.

Myers reportedly escaped, with minor injuries. Travis Osmer also had minor injuries. No one else was injured.

Myers, 30, told police that the men who abducted him had also asked for drugs but that he had stopped dealing drugs about two weeks earlier, according to a police statement written by Detective Trooper Jason Lengfellner. Myers reportedly said he’d sold “a multitude of illegal narcotics,” according to the affidavit.

He also told investigators that LaFlam and Mullinnex sold heroin, bath salts, cocaine, methampthetamine and marijuana, according to the document.

Lengfellner wrote that it was “Russell’s initiation to kill Myers” once the kidnapping and burglary was over. But, Russell told police, “it broke his heart when he saw Myers tied to the bed, so he decided to not go along with the plan.”

Court documents show LaFlam has eight previous felony convictions in Windsor County, Russell has six in Bennington County and Merritt has three in Windsor County.

Their criminal histories tag them as “habitual offenders,” which would enhance their potential sentences in new felony convictions to up to life in prison. Otherwise the charges carry penalties ranging from five years to life imprisonment.

LaFlam and Merritt are being held at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, and Russell is being held at Marble Valley Correctional Facility in Rutland.

The kidnapping case is being investigated by Vermont State Police, with assistance from the Springfield Police Department, Vermont Probation and Parole, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI.




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