Police: Suspects in Newport lied about missing man’s death 

By JOHN LIPPMAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-27-2023 5:26 PM

NEWPORT — The body of a Newport man who died of a suspected drug overdose earlier this month was left under a sheet on the kitchen floor for three days before the occupants of the home dumped him in the woods, where the remains were recovered last week, according to police.

Suspects charged in connection with the incident also allegedly declined to provide Narcan to the victim, blocked a witness from calling 911 and repeatedly denied any knowledge of his whereabouts until one of them helped investigators locate the body, according to police.

Five people — Laurel Ayotte, 50; her sons, Christopher Ayotte, 27, and Jacob Ayotte, 19; Candace Fontaine, 31; and Ryan Palmer — were arraigned in Sullivan Superior Court on Friday.

Following the hearing, Laurel Ayotte and Palmer were detained pending an evidentiary hearing.

Christopher Ayotte and Fontaine were detained on a 72-hour hold — an involuntary commitment on psychiatric or medical grounds.

Jacob Ayotte was released on personal recognizance.

Charges include conspiring to falsify physical evidence and abusing a corpse.

The mobile home at 86 Paradise Road is identified by authorities as a derelict residence where the occupants live in squalor.

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Sheets cover the windows of a home described by police as a known drug den and “flop house” to which “investigators regularly respond,” Newport Police Detective Alexander Marvin wrote in the lengthy affidavit.

The suspected overdose victim — a 40-year-old Newport man — was reported missing on Tuesday by his mother, who came to the police department and said she had not seen or heard from her son since March 6, when she dropped him off at the Paradise Road address.

The woman told police she had spoken with Laurel Ayotte, whose family owns the residence.

According to the affidavit, Laurel Ayotte told the woman she also had not seen her son since March 6, explaining he had left to go to the convenience store and never returned.

When a Newport police officer went to the Paradise Road residence to inquire about the missing man’s whereabouts on Tuesday, Laurel Ayotte similarly told the officer she had not seen him since March 6, the affidavit said.

However, Newport police later received a tip from one of the mother’s nieces that she had heard from two women — one of them Fontaine — who had been at Paradise Road home; the women said the missing man had overdosed and his body was “disposed of” by Laurel Ayotte and her son, Chris Ayotte.

Newport police took Fontaine into custody and brought her back to the police station to be interviewed. According to the affidavit, Fontaine initially denied any knowledge about the missing man or his whereabouts but then “eventually admitted … that she had been at the home when (the man) died in the kitchen” and his body remained there for about three days before she and others “moved” it.

Meanwhile, Angelica Castor, the other woman who had tipped off the niece, told investigators that at some time in the “prior weeks” she had been sleeping at the Paradise Road home when she was awakened by screaming in the early morning hours, the affidavit said.

Castor said she saw someone laying on the floor and provided a dose of an overdose reversal drug to be used on him, but it was refused.

She also said she attempted to call 911 but was told not to by the residents of the home, who then took her phone, the affidavit said. Castor was also told she could not leave and that the others only relented when Castor told them that “people would be looking for her” if she wasn’t allowed to leave, according to the affidavit.

Using the information from Fontaine and Castor, investigators obtained a warrant for 86 Paradise Rd.

When investigators arrived, “they noticed signs of crime scene cleanup.”

“The home is usually filthy with dog feces, trash and drug paraphernalia. During my tenure at Newport Police Department, this house is one of the filthiest homes I have ever entered and at times is borderline uninhabitable,” Marvin wrote in the affidavit.

But on this occasion, Marvin wrote, there were “signs of cleaning … there was a very strong odor of cleaning products in the kitchen.” In the trash, Marvie wrote, police found an “empty bottle of bleach” and other cleaning utensils, “which I found highly unusual.”

Later, Fontaine came to the scene and pointed investigators to the direction of where the victim’s body was located, according to the affidavit. With the help of a search dog, investigators found the man’s body on Thursday in a wooded area “about 100 yards away from the house … laying face down in the snow, frozen.”

“It appeared as if he had been there for an extended period of time as he was covered in snow, with the last snowstorm having been over a week ago,” the affidavit said.

If confirmed, the overdose death of the missing man would be the second one in a matter of weeks at the same Paradise Road address.

According to the affidavit, there was a fatal overdose there on Feb. 22, and four of the suspects and the missing man had been in attendance.

The case is similar to an incident in Newport last year in which the body of a 67-year-old woman who died from a suspected drug overdose remained for two days in an apartment bedroom before it was reported. A woman who lived in the apartment was later sentenced to two years in prison on drug related charges.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.

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