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Remains Found in Norwich Might Be Linked to Royalton Man’s Disappearance

  • Vermont State Police Lt. J.P. Schmidt, left, and Cpl. Paul Feeney exit a barn on a Norwich, Vt., property owned by Bukk Carleton where they say they have found potential evidence in the case of missing Royalton, Vt., man Austin Colson Wednesday, May 23, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Vermont State Police prepare to put up crime scene tape at a Norwich, Vt., property where they say they have found potential evidence in the case of missing Royalton, Vt., man Austin Colson. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Vermont State Police Cpl. Paul Feeney, right, asks an employee of property owner Bukk Carleton, to wait to speak with Lt. J.P. Schmidt, in Norwich, Vt., Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Carleton owns the barn where police say they have found potential evidence in the disappearance of Royalton, Vt., man Austin Colson. The employee declined to be identified. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lisa Gramling, of Hartland, left, hugs Lori Grizzaffi, of Lebanon, right, as unidentified remains are taken from a barn in Norwich, Vt., on Wednesday, May 23, 2018, to be transported for autopsy. The discovery was made during a search for Royalton man Austin Colson, Grizzaffi's daughter's boyfriend. "We've walked the property a million times, except the barn because it's really unsafe," said Gramling. The women were part of a group that searched for Colson in the months since his disappearance. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Remains recovered from a barn in Norwich, Vt., are loaded onto a hearse to be taken for autopsy at the Chief Medical Examiner's office in Burlington, Vt., Wednesday, May 23, 2018. The remains were discovered during a search for missing Royalton, Vt., man Austin Colson, but are not yet identified. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Signs with information about missing Royalton, Vt., man Austin Colson hang in the apartment window of his mother, DeAunna McKinney-Claflin, in West Lebanon, N.H., Wednesday, May 23, 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
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Norwich — Authorities investigating the disappearance of a Royalton man say they found “what are believed to be human remains” on Wednesday in a Norwich barn.

The remains have not been identified and were transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington for identification and an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death, Vermont State Police said in a Wednesday evening news release.

Earlier on Wednesday, police said they had found physical evidence in the disappearance of Austin Colson, who has been missing since January, and were focusing their efforts on an old barn along Beaver Meadow Road.

“We have found potential evidence” in connection with Colson’s case, Lt. John-Paul Schmidt, who is leading the investigation, said on the premises. “It is a scene we are processing right now.”

He declined to elaborate at the time, but later on Wednesday, authorities surrounded a gurney, carrying what appeared to be a body covered in a dark cloth, as it was placed into the back of a van-style hearse.

The State Police Crime Scene Search Team van was on site at 714 Beaver Meadow Road, a two-acre property in Norwich that authorities had searched before, for the majority of the day, along with several marked and unmarked cruisers. Around 3:15 p.m., troopers taped off the premises, and more and more vehicles converged on the scene throughout the afternoon.

Since January, as the days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, Colson’s parents said they had feared the worst for their son. His mother, DeAunna Claflin-McKinney, said late Wednesday that she wasn’t 100 percent sure whether the remains were her son’s.

“I’m feeling they are,” a stoic Claflin-McKinney said as she stood in the doorway of her West Lebanon apartment, a state advocate by her side. “I have too many emotions going through me. I don’t know what to say.”

Colson’s father, Dana, said he still has a lot of questions.

“I hope to get more answers after they complete an autopsy and process the forensics,” Dana Colson said through a messenger. “I need to know for sure if this is Austin.”

State police originally issued a news release announcing that authorities had resumed their search on Wednesday “as part of a previously scheduled effort.”

The Crime Scene Search Team and the Search and Rescue Team were on scene to aid in that investigation.

A few people who knew Colson and who had helped to search for him, including Lor Grizzaffi, his girlfriend’s mother, were at the scene as well.

The home on Beaver Meadow Road that sits near the large barn is owned by Carleton Family Trust, according to property records.

Bukk Carleton, who is listed as a broker with Northeast Commercial Realty in West Lebanon, told the Valley News he owns the home on Beaver Meadow where police have been searching.

Carleton said he stays at the home “from time to time,” before ending a telephone interview.

Colson, whose 20th birthday was in February, was last seen at his home in Royalton on Jan. 11, the day he had plans to collect scrap metal. The trailer he was believed to have been using was found abandoned the following week on Downer Road in Sharon with some scrap on it. Downer Road sits about 8 miles north of the Beaver Meadow Road farmhouse.

Family members have said Colson was supposed to collect scrap with White River Junction resident Richard Whitcomb, who has been named in federal court papers as a suspect in the Colson case.

Whitcomb faces federal charges, one of which asserts Whitcomb used a handgun as collateral in a cocaine deal with Colson in January.

Whitcomb has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

No one has been charged in connection with Colson’s disappearance.

Dana Colson previously said that Whitcomb once worked on the land off Beaver Meadow Road where state police had been searching.

Police have said that the spring weather helped turn up new leads.

Dana Colson said earlier this month that police and volunteers have made progress in gathering the pieces to the puzzle that may lead them to Austin.

He declined to elaborate at that time on what people may have found, citing the ongoing investigation.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.




Austin Colson


Lisa Gramling, of Hartland, left, hugs Lori Grizzaffi, of Lebanon, right, as unidentified remains are taken from a barn in Norwich, Vt., to be transported for autopsy Wednesday, May 23, 2018. The discovery was made during a search for Royalton man Austin Colson, Grizzaffi's daughter's boyfriend. "We've walked the property a million times, except the barn because it's really unsafe," said Gramling. The women were part of a group that searched for Colson in the months since his disappearence. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.