KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- A Manchester man who police said lied about how he was shot the night before he was to be arraigned on domestic assault charges is now facing allegations that he stole an employer’s cell phones, swapping one for a display model, and made 105 calls to a woman he was not allowed to have contact with and ultimately racked up a $2,100 phone bill.
Donald Ely-Gardner, 27, of Cone Road, was arraigned Thursday on the new charges and was also found competent to stand trial on the other allegations he his facing. His attorney had requested a competency evaluation for him previously. Ely-Gardner pleaded not guilty Thursday to felony counts of embezzlement, theft of services, two misdemeanor counts of petit larceny, and 105 misdemeanor counts of violating release conditions. Last month he pleaded not guilty to two counts each of first and second degree domestic assault stemming from allegations that he broke a woman’s finger and ankle. Shortly after that pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of giving false information to Manchester police by claiming he was shot when in fact he had shot himself.
According to an affidavit by Manchester Police Officer Craig L. Watrous Sr., on Feb. 5 he met with Ronnie Bruce, of Hand Chevrolet, who said a $2,118 bill from US Cellular made him wonder about the two "demo" phones he had in the store. He said he discovered one phone was missing while the other had been switched with a display dummy. Neither phone had been on a plan and so calls made from them came at a high expense. Bruce said he suspected Ely-Gardner who was hired by Hand to repair cell phones and had access to them. Also many of the calls were made to Ely-Gardner’s mother. The phones themselves were valued at $400 and $500.
Watrous said the phone records showed that all the calls made from them were placed from the Albany, N.Y., area between Jan. 1 and Jan. 10, which was when Ely-Gardner was at Albany Medical Center being treated for a gunshot wound. Nine of the calls were to the Manchester Police Department, 54 were to Ely-Gardner’s mother, and 105 were to a woman Ely-Gardner was not permitted to have contact with by a court order. Watrous said he learned from Ely-Gardner’s mother that the cell phones were in a bag of items he had given her at some point.
Ely-Gardner is currently being held at the Rutland jail.