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Springfield
Kidnappers Tracked Down: Three VT Men Charged in Connection to Kidnapping

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — Defendants of an alleged kidnapping case pleaded not guilty to all charges in court on Friday.

Christopher Merritt, 40, of Springfield has been charged with kidnapping, and assault with a deadly weapon among other charges, stemming from a kidnapping that occurred at a Stanley Road residence on July 30. Co-defendant Jesse LeFlam Sr. has been charged with the exact same crimes. Zachary Russell, 25, of Bennington enacted his 24-hour rule and his arraignment will be held on Monday. The final defendant in the case, Patrick Mullinex, 38, was the victim of a homicide at a Bennington apartment a short number of days after the kidnapping occurred.

The state of Vermont alleges that on July 30, 2022, each of the defendants entered a residence at 71 Stanley Road in Springfield. According to a state affidavit, all were wearing masks and had firearms. They forced the occupants of the house, including three children, upstairs where they were told to stay. A short time later, two other victims arrived at the house and were confronted by the armed assailants. It is alleged that upon entering the home, the male victims were told to sit down on a couch, to which one refused and was bludgeoned in the face by a shotgun. Then, according to Michael Myers, 30, the assailants began to go upstairs where the children were, and he suggested to the men that they just take him instead.

At this point Myers was taken to his vehicle and driven to his home, where the men ransacked his residence. During this time, another victim arrived at Myers’ home, and according to the affidavit, Mullinex then kidnapped her at gunpoint as well. The armed men then took the victims to Mullinex’s residence and threatened to murder them, and assault Myers.

Eventually they left and ended up at a Chester, Vermont location. It is at this location that Myers was allegedly tied up, thrown on a mattress, and beaten. In the court documents Myers suggests that Mullinex began choking him and only stopped when Merritt told him to. Merritt also offered Myers food, water and a cigarette. After a period of time, other unnamed people arrived at the Chester location and told Russell to untie Myers, which he did and apologized to Myers. They then brought Myers home.

During the arraignment for the three co-defendants, the state expressed concerns that the men would be flight risks and asked that they be held without bail. All of the defendants were processed with habitual offender enhancements, due to each of the defendants having a lengthy criminal history, including multiple felonies. Should the three men be found guilty the charge of kidnapping alone can bring a penalty of up to life imprisonment and/or a fine of $50,000.

They all were also given a no contact order with any of the victims. The original no contact order also included the co-defendants for each of them, but due to the men most likely being placed in the same facility, the judge did not want to add charges against the men for potentially inadvertently breaking the no contact order.

The police are still searching for a suspect, Raoul Cardona, in connection with the murder of Patrick Mullinex. According to police, Cardona shot Mullinex multiple times in a Bennginton apartment and they believe he has fled to Massachusetts. Anyone with information regarding that shooting is asked to call the Bennington Police Department at 802-442-1030.


News
Claremont
100 Pints for Harlow: Blood Drive in Honor of Stevens Alumni Aiming High

CLAREMONT — On Monday, August 22, 2022, the American Red Cross is partnering with some Claremont natives to hold a blood drive in honor of Jaidyn Harlow.

Harlow, a recent Stevens High School graduate, has been battling leukemia since 2019. Now on her third round of the cancer, according to family friend and one of the event’s organizers Michael Huse, she is undergoing an experimental T-Cell therapy. According to Healthline.com, “Chimeric antigen receptor T-Cell therapy, or as Car-T therapy, is a treatment that helps your T-cells fight certain types of cancer.” In order to create cancer fighting T-Cells, there are five steps involved; collection of the cells, cells are taken to a lab where the genes are changed to fight the patient’s specific cancer, these cells are then infused back into your bloodstream, patients may get a low-level chemotherapy, and finally, the new Car-T cells attack the cancer within your body.

Huse states that this is a relatively new type of cancer therapy, which has been in the works for five to 10 years, and he says Harlow is the youngest out of 26 patients undergoing this therapy at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. According to Today.com, Emily Whitehead, the first pediatric patient to receive this treatment when she was five years old, is now 10 years cancer free.

Huse, whose son graduated from Stevens with Harlow, has helped with both of the previous two blood drives in honor of her. “We held the first one in 2019 down at the Masonic Lodge in Claremont and we received 38 pints of blood,” said Huse. “Then in 2020, we didn’t do it. But in 2021, the family asked if I would do it again and I said yes.” He states that last year’s edition, held at the Claremont Senior Center, of the blood drive collected 86 pints of blood, and that they had to turn people away at the door.

For this year’s event, the aim is even higher. “Our goal this year is 100 pints,” Huse stated. For this year’s drive, information for the community is said to be a key feature, aside from giving blood. Coming to Claremont will be members from the kidney transplant team, as well as BeTheMatch out of Rhode Island. Of the transplant team, Huse stated, “We all know somebody who needs kidneys. I figured let’s add something to this to provide more information to the community.” The organizations will be present at the drive, with booths both to provide information on how to give or donate organs, but also looking for possible live donors. “The primary goal is for the blood, and a second is educating the public for if they wanna be a donor,” Huse said. “It might not be important to you or I, but it is important to somebody.”

Sponsors for the event reportedly include Pathways and the Independent Order of Oddfellows, in addition to the help from the American Red Cross. According to Huse, some local Boy Scouts will also be on hand to help sterilize beds.

Making an appointment prior to the drive is recommended, but walk-ins will be welcome. In order to make an appointment you can call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter the code CLAREMONTCOMMUNITY. For those with appointments, and those who are walking in, the Blood Drive will take place at the Claremont Senior Center’s Multipurpose Room at 5 Acer Heights Road in Claremont. The event will run from 12 to 6 PM.

Appointment bookings have been slower this year than expected, Huse stated, but he believes that people will show up. “Claremont has its good and bad, but I believe there are still enough good people to find a hundred pints of blood.”


News
Bridgewater
List to Headline Comedy Festival

BRIDGEWATER, Vt. — The Vermont Comedy Festival, hosted by the Woolen Mill Comedy Club, has recently made some big announcements. On Friday, festival coordinators announced that comedian Joe List would be headlining at Pentangle Arts on the final day of the festival.

The Woolen Mill Comedy Club, started by Bridgewater native Collen Doyle in 2015, has recently been hosting weekly comedy shows featuring comedians from all over the country. Originally focusing on primarily local talent, the club has grown along with its Board to “bridge the gap between New York City and Vermont.” Producer and Board Member Matt Vita says he has been working with Doyle for a long time, putting on comedy shows and that doing a festival seemed like the logical next step.

“The idea came from wanting to showcase not only great comedy, but also the beauty of Vermont. We were honestly surprised to see that not only was a Vermont Comedy Festival not a thing, but it never had also been. In the past, comedy in Vermont has really focused on local talent, and we wanted to really try and create something that could be a national event and bring some bigger names to Vermont’s doorstep,” said Doyle about the festival’s inception.

The festival will run from December 1st through the 4th, starting with a kickoff party at Bridgewater, Vermont’s Ramuntos, just below the Woolen Mill Comedy Club, and they intend to do some comedy programming that night as well. Friday and Saturday nights will essentially mirror themselves with comedy programming throughout the day at different locations. Throughout the weekend, they also intend to host a variety of events including industry panels, a musical comedy segment, and a sketch video show. The weekend will also see dozens of comedians traveling from many different parts of the country.

All leading up to the headlining event which will be List at Pentangle Arts in Woodstock, Vermont. Fans may recognize List from his appearances on “The Late Show With David Letterman” and “The Standups” on Netflix. He also co-hosts the successful “Tuesdays With Stories” podcast with fellow comedian Mark Normand.

While comedy is the focus for this festival, the hosts also intend for the events to showcase the beauty of Vermont and will be inviting comedians and guests alike to come ski and snowboard at Killington and enjoy the nearby towns and amenities that Vermont has to offer.

We recognize that we may not be in the largest metropolis in Vermont. We really feel like that puts us in the unique position of being able to offer and show parts of Vermont that we really love. The point is for everyone to come in and feel like they’ve had an authentic Vermont experience,” said Doyle

Local businesses have been instrumental in helping the comedy club provide comedians and guests with a pleasant experience. Possibly none more than nearby hotel 506 On the River, which has put up many of the comedians that perform at the comedy club. Other businesses, like The Rivershed and Ramuntos, have offered up their space to help the festival.

Anyone interested in attending the festival is invited and encouraged to buy tickets as soon as possible, tickets to see Joe List at Pentagle went up on Friday and according to Vita its “only a matter of when they sell out”. More information on the show can be found at www.vermontcomedyfestival.com.


National
Public Health Emergency Announced: US DHHS Declared Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency

WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced Thursday a public health emergency for the monkeypox virus, which means the federal government can more quickly assist states with distributing vaccines and conducting testing and public health campaigns.

“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously and to take responsibility to help us tackle this,” Becerra said during a call with reporters.

More than 6,600 monkeypox cases have been reported in the United States, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The hardest-hit states are New York, California, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.

There are no reported deaths, but symptoms can last for weeks and can include muscle aches, a painful rash, respiratory symptoms, and chills, among other things. The virus is most often spread through direct contact, including personal, skin-to-skin contact.

New York, California, and Illinois within the last week have declared a state of emergency due to the virus. But in Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis shut down the idea of declaring a state of emergency for the Sunshine State, even as cases there have climbed to 525, the Florida Phoenix reported.

The World Health Organization has given its highest alert level to monkeypox, declaring it a public health emergency of international concern.

Becerra said the administration has delivered more than 600,000 vaccines by partnering with local, state, and tribal governments.

States are limited in their access to the vaccine, which requires a two-dose regime, because the federal government can only purchase the vaccine from one company in Denmark.

Becerra said the administration has the capacity to administer 80,000 tests per week, and for those who need treatment, there are 14,000 treatments of an antiviral called tecovirimat, or TPOXX, “that has been shown to help those who have monkeypox.”

HHS in mid-July announced it purchased another 2.5 million doses of Bavarian Nordic’s JYNNEOS vaccine to respond to the monkeypox outbreak.

Biden administration officials on the call included Robert Fenton, the White House national monkeypox response coordinator; Demetre Daskalakis, the White House national monkeypox response deputy coordinator; Rochelle Walensky, CDC director; Robert Califf, Food and Drug Administration commissioner; and Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS.

Fenton said across the federal government, it’s an “all hands on deck response.”

“We are going to apply lessons learned from the battles we’ve fought, whether it be from the wildfires to COVID responses or to measles,” Fenton said.

“We plan to be responsive leaders, focusing on tackling this and today, the actions we are announcing will allow us … to explore additional strategies to get vaccines and will allow us to get more data from jurisdictions, so we can effectively track and attack this outbreak.”

Daskalakis, who helped lead the response to New York City’s measles outbreak and has led HIV and STD health prevention programs, said that the administration is engaging “with the LGBTQI+ community where we saw this virus spreading with the goal of sharing the critical information around the symptoms of monkeypox and best practices to stop its spread.”

“While we know that monkeypox is not exclusively a sexually transmitted virus, we also recognized early on that this virus is spreading more rapidly and differently than you’ve seen in prior outbreaks,” Daskalakis said.

“I think that from the LGBTQ perspective, this is a very clear statement of the value of the lives of people who are in the LGBTQ community.”

Congress has also been slow to hold any hearings, or given much attention to monkeypox, which is predominantly affecting the LGBTQ community but can be spread by anyone who is infected.

Following the announcement from HHS, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, praised the decision, adding that she sent a letter to Becerra in late July urging him to declare a public health emergency.

“This critical step will allow the Biden Administration to build on the progress it has already made to expand the availability of vaccines, testing, and treatment nationwide,” she said in a statement, adding that she will “continue to push the Administration to use every tool at its disposal to mitigate the threat monkeypox poses to our nation’s public health and ensure testing, vaccines, and treatment are available to those who need it.”


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