Vermont man sentenced to prison for role in Springfield, Vt., drug dispute and robbery

By JOHN LIPPMAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-20-2024 12:52 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A Vermont man who was one of four men — and one of only two still living — involved in a drug dispute and violent robbery attempt in Springfield, Vt., two years ago has been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to charges arising from the incident.

The incident attracted statewide attention when one of the accused was found shot dead just days later.

Zachary Russell, 27, of Bennington, Vt., was sentenced to three years and six months to 12 years in state prison in Windsor County Superior Court on April 29 after pleading guilty to a felony charge of burglary into an occupied dwelling, and misdemeanor charges of interfering with emergency services, simple assault and petit larceny, according to court records.

Initial felony charges against Russell of kidnapping and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon were dropped, records show.

Two of the four men originally charged along with Russell in the Springfield incident 21 months ago are now deceased.

Russell and three other men invaded a home in Springfield in August 2022 and held an occupant at gunpoint and robbed another male occupant who they then took to a location in Chester, Vt., where he was held before the man escaped, according to police.

One of the four men in the party that entered the Springfield home, Patrick Mullinnex, was found shot dead in a Bennington apartment a few days later. A man from Springfield, Mass., who was not among the four men charged in the Springfield, Vt., incident, subsequently turned himself in to police after he had been named a suspect in Mullinnex’s murder.

Another of the original four men facing kidnapping and assault charges, Christopher Merritt, died at his home in Springfield, Vt., in 2023, according to his obituary.

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The remaining surviving defendant, Jesse LaFlam Sr., of Springfield, identified as a chronic offender who faces similar charges as Russell, is currently incarcerated at Northern State Correctional Facility and next scheduled to appear in Windsor County court on July 30. He is a defendant in 10 separate criminal dockets, according to court records.

Russell is currently incarcerated at Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland.