Prosecutors outline wild crime spree leading up to DHMC shuttle theft, chase

  • Mitchell Horton, of Chester, Vt., asks judge David Treadwell to speak about his bail conditions during a remote hearing from the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., on June 14, 2022. Horton allegedly drove off in an unoccupied DHMC shuttle bus on June 8, leading police on a two-state chase. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News - Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/14/2022 9:45:25 PM
Modified: 6/14/2022 9:43:09 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — While the theft of Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center parking shuttle drew the initial headlines last week, that episode was just the tail end of a destructive crime spree, according to police.

In one day, Mitchell Horton damaged an auto mechanic’s garage while stealing a car he later crashed, received treatment for his injuries at Springfield Hospital, was arrested, was transported to DHMC for further treatment, fled the Emergency Room, stole the shuttle bus, led police on a high-speed pursuit, fled on foot, was arrested again, and treated at both hospitals again, according to a police affidavit and interviews.

Horton, who appeared with a black eye via video from Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, pleaded not guilty to charges of grossly negligent operation of a vehicle, eluding a police officer, operating a vehicle without owner’s consent and possession of stolen property during his arraignment in Windsor Superior Court on Monday.

He was released on conditions — including staying 300 feet away from DHMC and a 24-hour curfew — pending $10,000 cash bail.

Police said Horton, a carpenter, painter and handyman, had three outstanding arrest warrants for failing to appear in court before last week’s arrest.

On Tuesday during his arraignment, Horton’s court-appointed attorney, Rick Ammons of the Windham County public defender’s office, said Horton, 34, has been struggling with heroin addiction since he was 16 years old.

For Horton, June 8 started and ended on French Meadow Road in Springfield. The early-morning crime spree came to the attention of authorities when Vermont State Police responded to a car crash in Cavendish, Vt., just after 6 involving a vehicle that had been stolen by Horton, according to an affidavit from Weathersfield police officer Ryan Prince in support of the charges related to stealing the DHMC shuttle van.

Horton and another occupant in the vehicle, Briana Stone, allegedly left the scene of the crash.

At about 8:30 a.m., police were called to R&R Repair, an automotive repair shop on French Meadow Road in Springfield, where the owner reported that his business had been broken into and a car stolen.

Police identified Horton as the suspect behind the break-in and car theft, the affidavit said.

At 10:35 a.m., police were called to Springfield Hospital, where Horton was being treated for profuse bleeding and injuries suffered in the car crash earlier that morning.

Horton was arrested at the hospital but had to be transported to DHMC in Lebanon for further care, police said.

While Horton was treated at DHMC, he left the ER and “took possession of a parked white Dartmouth bus that was running,” according to the affidavit.

Witnesses recall seeing a man in a hoodie and blood-stained clothes darting out of the ER and roar off in the shuttle van as the shuttle’s driver had briefly stepped outside his vehicle.

The shuttle was located by Weathersfield police traveling south along Interstate 91 at between 70 to 80 miles per hour. Police pursued the van as it left the interstate at Exit 8.

Police later discovered the shuttle bus “stuck in the dirt behind a barn” with its engine “still running in reverse” at Mitchell’s Auto Body on French Meadow Road, only about a mile from R & R Repair, where Horton allegedly had begun his journey earlier that day, according to the affidavit.

After canvassing the area, police took Horton into custody at the corner of Bellows Road and Chester Road. Horton told the arresting officers that “he didn’t remember what had happened and that he had woken up at DHMC and was just trying to get home,” the affidavit said.

Horton was taken back to Springfield Hospital for treatment of his injuries for the second time that day and then back to DHMC.

Vermont Department of Corrections then took Horton into custody at DHMC.

Randy Goulet, owner of R & R Repair, said he pulled up to his shop at 8:30 that morning to discover that the garage door had been damaged and a car with a newly repaired engine had been stolen — along with four sets of keys to other vehicles.

The thief “broke a window to get into the garage,” said Goulet, but didn’t bother to open the garage bay door before exiting the premises.

“He backed right through it,” Goulet said.

The owner of the vehicle, Justine Wharton, said Horton — whom she has known for 20 years — has a blood disorder which is why he needed to be transported to DHMC from Springfield Hospital for special treatment.

(During the arraignment on Tuesday, Ammons said that Horton has hemophilia, a disorder that prevents blood from clotting properly.)

Wharton, a single working mom of two, said the 2006 Subaru Tribeca that she purchased in March is totaled. Because it was a pre-owned vehicle, she only carried liability insurance.

Wharton, now without personal transportation, said she is getting around with the help of “family and friends.”

In one last sting, Wharton said she even had to pay $321 to have the vehicle released from Vermont State Police impound, and used her sister’s AAA membership to have her car towed back to R & R Repair, where it now sits waiting to be salvaged.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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