Alleged hardware thief charged as habitual offender

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BENNINGTON — A man with an extensive criminal history is being charged as a habitual offender after police said he stole over $1,000 worth of items from a Manchester hardware store.

Kenneth R. Armstrong, 40, was ordered held without bail at his arraignment in Rutland criminal court this week.

Armstrong, of Manchester, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to single felony counts of retail theft and possessing stolen property greater than $900.

Armstrong was charged as a habitual offender because he has been convicted of three or more felonies, meaning prosecutors could argue for a maximum sentence up to life in prison.

Police were called to the R.K. Miles Hardware on Depot Street on Monday for a reported theft that took place on Friday afternoon, according to an affidavit by Manchester Officer Darrin Jennings II. Video surveillance allegedly showed a man walking through the store placing items in a cart and, when he saw employees helping other customers, exit the store without paying. Among the items taken were a nail gun and two cordless sets that included saws and drills, totaling $1,200.

A photo of the suspect was posted to the department's Facebook page in an effort to identify him. Two Department of Corrections employees recognized the man to be Armstrong, according to the affidavit.

Police contacted Armstrong, who came to the Manchester police department the same day. Armstrong allegedly did not deny that an image showed him.

"He stated that he was trying to get out of that life style, but had been drinking that day and didn't know why he did it," the affidavit states. Armstrong allegedly said he took the items "to get a few extra dollars" and sold them to a man in Rutland for $150.

Armstrong's criminal history includes 13 prior convictions for retail theft — eight misdemeanors and five felonies — and six failures to appear in court, according to the affidavit.

Armstrong is detained at Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland and will return to Vermont Superior Court Bennington Criminal Division at a future date.

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.

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