Whitcomb expected to plead guilty to gun charge

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, September 16, 2019

BURLINGTON — A 40-year-old White River Junction man has signed a plea deal in which he admits to being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to federal court documents.

Richard Whitcomb Jr., who has been identified by a federal prosecutor as a suspect in the 2018 disappearance of Royalton resident Austin Colson, would be sentenced to 37 months in prison, according to the terms of the agreement that he signed earlier this month and was filed in U.S. District Court on Friday.

Whitcomb, who was released from jail to go to a drug rehabilitation facility in spring 2018, would also get credit for taking responsibility for the gun crime and credit for time served, which could reduce the time he will actually serve, according to the agreement.

Whitcomb would plead guilty to a newly filed felony charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, instead of one of the two charges he currently faces, the agreement states.

A plea hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Rutland, and Whitcomb is expected to go back into custody then, under the terms of the deal.

One of the charges Whitcomb originally faced alleged he used a gun as collateral in a cocaine deal with Colson in January 2018. The other alleged he had unlawful possession of a gun — a .32-caliber pistol — as a felon.

Whitcomb has a felony conviction for aggravated domestic assault in Windsor County, court records show.

Whitcomb’s wife, Sara Willey Whitcomb, said on Monday that the couple is pleased with the potential plea deal.

“We are very happy with the outcome and we look forward to moving on with our lives,” Sara Whitcomb said in a telephone interview.

Her husband maintains his innocence in the Colson case, she said.

Colson disappeared in January 2018 on a day family members said he was expected to collect scrap metal with Whitcomb.

Colson’s body was found months later in an old barn in Norwich where Whitcomb had been a property caretaker.

Colson was shot in the head.

No one has been charged in his homicide.

Sara Whitcomb said she and her husband hope that whoever is responsible for Colson’s death “is held accountable.”

The case is still ongoing, Vermont State Police spokesman Adam Silverman said.

“We are continuing to actively and aggressively investigate the homicide of Austin Colson,” Silverman wrote in an email on Monday.

Although Whitcomb has signaled that he plans to wrap up his federal court case, a separate state court case in which he is accused of fraud is still pending.

Whitcomb has pleaded not guilty to a felony count of home improvement fraud for allegedly cashing a $3,000 check to build a deck but never following through with the job.

That case is scheduled for jury draw in October, Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said.

Correspondent Mike Donoghue contributed to this report. Jordan Cud demi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.