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Police Execute Search Warrants in Connection With Homicide Case

  • Police search the Hartford, Vt., property where Richard Whitcomb Jr., a suspect in the disappearance of Austin Colson, lives Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Richard Whitcomb Jr. waits at the base of his Hartford, Vt., driveway with his wife Sara Willey Whitcomb as police search the home of his father-in-law Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, October 11, 2018

White River Junction — Police say they executed several search warrants in the Connecticut River Valley today in connection with the homicide of Austin Colson, but have released few other details.

Several police officers and the Vermont State Police Crime Scene Command Post truck were posted for much of the day along Connecticut River Road near the home of Richard Whitcomb Jr., who has been named as a suspect in Colson’s disappearance.

Sara Willey Whitcomb, who is Whitcomb’s wife, said that police were searching for a “particular gun” and were focused on her father’s house, which shares a driveway with the Whitcombs’ home. Both homes are in Edward Willey’s name, according to assessing records.

Willey Whitcomb also said police searched her vehicle and her husband’s today, before she declined further comment.

A message left for Edward Willey wasn’t immediately returned.

Vermont State Police spokesman Adam Silverman said today he couldn’t say what police were searching for or where. State Police issued a short news release just after 3:30 p.m., which indicated police executed search warrants and that the Colson case remains open and active.

Whitcomb has been listed in federal court documents as a suspect in Colson’s disappearance. The 19-year-old from Royalton went missing nine months ago on Jan. 11, and authorities found his body 4½ months later in a barn on Beaver Meadow Road in Norwich.

An autopsy showed Colson was shot in the head; his death has been ruled a homicide.

Thursday wasn’t the first time police have searched Whitcomb’s property. Nearly a dozen search warrant affidavits have been filed in Windsor Superior Court and indicate that authorities have searched his cellphones, his home and his truck.

Contained in those affidavits is information that Whitcomb was a caretaker for the Norwich property where Colson’s body was found.

During a previous search of Whitcomb’s home, police recovered a handgun, which ultimately resulted in two federal firearms charges against him, a case that is still pending in U.S. District Court in Burlington. Whitcomb has pleaded not guilty to the felony charges, one of which alleges Whitcomb used the gun as collateral in a cocaine deal with Colson in January.

Police staged the search operation today in the driveway of both of the homes off Connecticut River Road, south of downtown White River Junction, with some entering a house that sits at the top of the driveway. A trooper and a Hartford officer both sat in marked cruisers at the end of the driveway for most of the morning.

The Whitcombs sat in a vehicle on the property while the search was underway.

Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said he didn’t have anything to add to the statement from Vermont State Police.

Windsor County court clerks said there were no new search warrant affidavits available to the public on Thursday.

Colson’s mother, DeAunna Claflin, said she and Colson’s father, Dana, met with state police a couple of weeks ago. Police have told them little about the investigation, and that doesn’t make the heartache any easier, even though the secrecy may be merited, she said.

“Part of me is not OK with it because it’s just so hard, but I also know that they are trying to keep things ‘hush, hush’ so they don’t get leaked out and the investigation gets compromised,” she said

“It’s been very emotional,” she continued. “We just want this over and done with.”

Dana Colson is still asking anybody with information about his son’s death to come forward.

“This is just another step in a long process,” he said.

Whitcomb has until Nov. 10 to file final pretrial motions in his federal case. He was supposed to have them filed by the end of the day today, but his attorney, Bradley Stetler, filed a motion earlier in the week to extend that deadline and a judge approved it.

A message left for Stetler wasn’t returned by deadline.

Whitcomb also has a case in state court pending. He faces a felony count of home improvement fraud that alleges he cashed a check to build a deck, but never did the work. He has pleaded not guilty to that allegation and is slated to appear next in the White River Junction courthouse in January.

Valley News photographer James Patterson contributed to this report. Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.