BENNINGTON - A woman who triggered Vermont's second ever Amber Alert by taking her 12-year-old biological son to New Hampshire pleaded not guilty Friday to felony charges in Vermont Superior Court, and had her bail lowered from $200,000 to $10,000.
Patricia Kane, 49, of Manchester was charged with felony counts of second degree unlawful restraint, and custodial interference. To be released, she must post a $10,000 cash or surety bond. If set free, she must check in once per day at the Manchester Police Department, not leave Bennington County or contact her son, Zachary Lee, without court permission, and must submit to an alcohol test upon the request of law enforcement. She is also not allowed on the premises of the school Lee attends.
According to an affidavit by Vermont State Detective Sgt. Albert Abdelnour, on Monday the Vermont Department for Children and Families was contacted by Lee's foster parent, who lives on North Road in Sunderland. Police learned that Kane had followed the school bus Lee was riding, and that Lee never entered his foster family's house after being let off by the bus.
Lee has been in DCF custody since Jan. 14. Kane was not allowed unsupervised contact with him and could only visit him three times per week. It is not clear why Kane does not have custody of the child, as aspects of the matter are under seal or being handled in Family Court.
Abdelnour learned from the bus driver that Lee was dropped off at his foster residence at 3:30 p.m. When he was let off, there was a gray station wagon parked at a "weird" angle behind the bus. There were no cars in the driveway to Lee's foster home, but that was not unusual. The driver told police Lee said everything was fine, and observed him playing with his backpack while standing in the driveway.
State Police went to Kane's home in Manchester and forced their way inside when no one answered the door. No one was there, and so an Amber Alert was issued. At 10:21 p.m. a woman contacted police to say she recognized Kane and Lee from the Amber Alert when she saw them at the Canoe Restaurant in Hanover, N.H. They were with a third person, a teenage girl, and all three were speaking French. Police said the teenager is Kane's 17-year-old daughter, and the three had all live I France for roughly a decade previously.
Police in Hanover responded to the restaurant and learned the trio had been asking about hotels before leaving. The family had gone to the Hanover Inn, but decided instead to stay at the Lyme County Inn in Lyme, N.H., where Hanover Police and New Hampshire State Police found them. Kane was in the lobby and said she had custody of Lee. The children were found in a hotel room. Lee confirmed he had come to New Hampshire with Kane, while his sister said they came via taxi but she could not remember the taxi company name.
At Kane's arraignment hearing, State's Attorney Erica Marthage asked that the $200,000 bail placed on Kane by the court after her arrest be continued. She said Kane has no ties to this area, having come from France. Marthage said Kane had a friend nearby in New York, which is how she ended up in Vermont, but she appears to have abandoned her Manchester apartment.
"The defendant has exhibited significant unstable behavior," Marthage said and refuses to follow court orders or work with state officials. She said there are no conditions that could be placed on Kane that would assure her appearance in court besides a large amount of bail.
Kane's attorney, Stephen Saltonstall, said while there is a dispute between Kane and her landlord, she still holds the apartment and can live there with her daughter who attends school locally. "I don't think there's any evidence she poses a physical danger to her son or anybody else," he said.
He said Kane was, "hiding in plain sight" and intended to take Lee back to Vermont. "All she was doing was having dinner with them."
Marthage called that a "mischaracterization" of the situation, and added that Kane was intoxicated when police found her. Marthage said according to state officials who deal with her, her judgment becomes impaired when she has been drinking.
Judge John Wesley said he would set Kane's bail at $10,000 which she will forfeit if she does not appear at court hearings. He did not side with Saltonstall, who suggested Kane be allowed to post 10 percent of a small bail amount.
The state requested Kane not be allowed alcohol and to be tested for it when checking in. Wesley said he would require the test, but said it would result in an automatic violation if she was found to have been drinking.
Vermont's first Amber Alert was issued June 2008 after Brooke Bennett, of Braintree was reported missing. Her body was found in early July, buried in Randolph near the home of her uncle, Michael Jacques. In August of last year, Jacques pleaded guilty to kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and killing her.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.