Hartford man pleads not guilty to attempted murder charge

Zachary Geissler of Hartford, Vt., appears in a video arraignment from the Southern State Correctional Facility on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023. Geissler's attorney Joseph Strain sits with Geissler's parents in Strain's office for the arraignment. Geissler has been charged with attempted murder along with a number of other charges relating to a shooting in Hartford Village last week. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Zachary Geissler of Hartford, Vt., appears in a video arraignment from the Southern State Correctional Facility on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023. Geissler's attorney Joseph Strain sits with Geissler's parents in Strain's office for the arraignment. Geissler has been charged with attempted murder along with a number of other charges relating to a shooting in Hartford Village last week. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 11-22-2023 7:40 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A 26 year-old Hartford resident was high on crack cocaine when he shot another man in the chest during an argument at an apartment on Maple Street last Friday, according to a police account of the incident.

Zachary Geissler pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to attempted murder in the 2nd degree, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

Meanwhile, the shooting victim, Kollin Holmes, 21, of Hartford, was listed in critical condition at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center on Wednesday.

In an interview, his mother, Katie Cochran, said Holmes is conscious and breathing independently.

“He’s doing alright,” Cochran said by phone. “He’s healing and definitely in pain, but he is stubborn and strong.”

Geissler allegedly shot Holmes once in the chest during a confrontation between the two men inside Geissler’s apartment, according to a police affidavit filed in court on Wednesday.

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Hartford police officers were called to 1407 Maple St. on Nov. 17, shortly after midnight, and found Holmes injured in the driveway, according to the affidavit. A trail of blood led the officers to Geissler’s apartment.

According to the affidavit, investigating officers found blood marks on the interior door frame of the apartment, as well as on the interior and exterior doormats and the steps and stair rail leading to the second floor dwelling.

Geissler allegedly told police Holmes was shot by a companion who accompanied Holmes to the apartment, though Geissler could not recall the person’s name, according to the affidavit.

Asked about a strong odor of bleach in the stairwell and in the apartment, Geissler allegedly admitted to attempting to clean the blood splatter, telling police that he found the appearance of blood unsightly.

A search of the apartment uncovered multiple firearms, including one assault rifle and two 9 mm pistols, a firearm casing behind the living room couch, several mounted security cameras and a pipe used for smoking crack cocaine, police said.

According to the affidavit, a bullet entered Holmes’ chest, traveled downward and exited above his kidney.

Cochran told police that Geissler and her son had known each other since childhood though they were using drugs together, including crack cocaine, the affidavit said.

In an interview with police on Tuesday, Holmes said that he and Geissler had been smoking crack cocaine in the apartment when Geissler brandished a handgun. Holmes did not specify what led to the confrontation but indicated to police that it may have involved drugs or money, the affidavit states.

Holmes also told police he believes the shooting was intentional and that Geissler refused to render aid after he was shot.

Hartford Police took Geissler into custody on Tuesday. He appeared remotely from Southern State Correctional Facility on Wednesday at a hearing in Windham County Superior Court.

Judge John Treadwell denied a bail request by Geissler’s attorney Joseph Strain and ordered that Geissler remain in detention at Southern State Correctional Facility.

State’s Attorney Ward Goodenough argued against the request for bail, stating that he had serious concerns about Holmes’ safety. Goodenough cited the affidavit that stated after the shooting, Geissler made multiple attempts to visit Holmes at DHMC, though Holmes refused to accept his visits or calls.

Geissler faces 20 years to life imprisonment if convicted of attempted murder, and up to 15 years in prison if convicted of aggravated assault. The reckless endangerment charge, a misdemeanor, carries a penalty of up to one year of imprisonment and up to a $1,000 fine.

Strain said after the hearing that his firm “looks forward to diving into the facts and finding out what happened here.”

The next hearing in the case will be held in Windsor Superior Court. A Windsor court clerk said the arraignment was only in Windham County because no cases were scheduled in Windsor County court on Wednesday.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.