Drug, weapons charges stem from Hartford raid on couple known for prison guard-inmate pregnancy

  • Police remove evidence from an apartment on Hartford Avenue near Hartford High School in White River Junction, Vt., following a search on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Hartford Police, from left, Cpl. Eric Clifford, Officer Jhonathan Angulo, and Officer Lucas Menezes, arrest Leanne Salls for alleged cocaine possession following a search of her White River Junction, Vt., on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. James Ingerson was also arrested for alleged cocaine possession and possession of a firearm during the operation that involved Hartford Police, Norwich Police and officers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • James Ingerson (Hartford Police photograph)

  • Leanne Salls (Hartford Police photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/31/2023 8:29:00 PM
Modified: 7/31/2023 8:28:56 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A White River Junction couple who police allege were selling fentanyl-laced cocaine that caused multiple people to overdose are facing drug and weapons charges following a high-profile raid of their home across from Hartford High School earlier this summer, according to court documents.

James Ingerson, 53, has been charged with possessing cocaine and unlawful possession of a firearm, misdemeanors, following the raid of his residence on Hartford Avenue on June 7, according to charging documents filed in Windsor County Superior Court.

His wife, Leanne Salls, 41, has been charged with a single misdemeanor count of cocaine possession.

Ingerson and Salls first gained attention a decade ago when Salls, then a prison guard at Southeast State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., became pregnant by Ingerson when he was serving a sentence at the facility for burglary.

Salls subsequently pleaded guilty to misdemeanor count of prohibited acts.

Hartford police said they launched an investigation into purported drug activity at the couple’s residence after the Hartford Probation and Parole office reported “several clients” said Ingerson, who was under parole supervision for a felony conviction, was “selling large amounts of heroin and cocaine laced with fentanyl which is causing people to overdose after ‘one hit,’ ” according to a police affidavit filed in support of the charges.

The affidavit details that one of the parolees reported having overdosed in a vehicle in Ingerson’s and Salls’ apartment building parking lot and had to be “narcanned 4 times” after they bought and smoked cocaine with fentanyl in it.

Narcan is brand name for Naloxone, and opioid overdose reversal drug.

Hartford police said that beginning on May 4, authorities witnessed numerous vehicles pulling into Ingerson’s and Salls’ residence at 549 Hartford Ave., located across the road from the driveway entrance to Hartford High School and adjacent to White River Family Eye Care, with visitors spending a few minutes Ingerson’s and Salls’ apartment.

Police said they had also received a complaint from a “concerned neighbor regarding a large amount of short-term foot and vehicle traffic coming and going” from the apartment and that neighbors also were reporting that “individuals are parking in businesses nearby and walking directly to the apartment.” Police theorized this was “being done to limit the number of vehicles coming and going from the apartment.”

Using license plates, police traced the vehicles visiting the residennce back to known drug users, the affidavit said.

During the week of May 29, a surveillance team comprising Hartford police and New Hampshire Drug Task Force members also observed Salls allegedly selling drugs to an informant in Lebanon.

On the morning of June 7, before they executed a search warrant of Ingerson’s and Salls’ apartment, Ingerson was “contacted and detained” in the parking lot at Hartford Probation and Parole while Hartford police, joined by the Norwich police and Lebanon police and ATF officers converged at and secured the apartment, the affidavit details.

A search of the apartment found “screens with cocaine residue” and drug paraphernalia such as needles, “crack pipes,” tourniquets and about “2.3 grams of cocaine in the front bedroom area,” according to the affidavit.

Also recovered from the apartment was a 20-gauge shotgun, which police said Ingerson told them he had purchased for $20 at a Brattleboro gun show a couple months earlier.

Ingerson has an extensive criminal record, including nine felony arrests with seven convictions.

He also faces charges on two counts of possession of controlled substances in Grafton County Superior Court, according to New Hampshire state court records.

Ingerson had pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon in Windsor Superior Court in January stemming from an incident in which the victim owed Ingerson money for drugs, the affidavit said. As part of the sentence, he was prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Ingerson, who is currently being held at Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport, Vt., has not yet entered a plea and is scheduled for arraignment on Aug. 8.

Salls, who pleaded not guilty at her arraignment on July 25, is currently released on bail.

Ingerson and Salls share the same birth month and day, according to court records: Aug. 1.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.

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