Two women arraigned for aiding Bennington home invasion


BENNINGTON — Two women are facing charges alleging that in December they helped a male break into an elderly woman's home and rob her caretaker at gunpoint.

Jessica A. Harrington, 33, of Shaftsbury, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Vermont Superior Court to aiding in the commission of assault and robbery with a deadly weapon, and burglary into an occupied dwelling while armed with a dangerous or deadly weapon. She was released without bail under conditions, among them she abide by an evening curfew and continue with her counseling through United Counseling Service.

Amanda J. Sausville, 34, of Bennington, pleaded not guilty Thursday to the same charged and was ordered held until a bail hearing. The state asked her to be held owing to the fact she is being charged as a habitual offender for past felony convictions, those being escape from furlough, embezzlement, and gross negligent vehicle operation. Her attorney argued she is not a flight risk because of her ties to the community.

Neither is allowed contact with Lawrence Elwell, 32, who they implicated as being involved in the robbery.

Elwell is being held by New York authorities on an alleged probation violation. A warrant for his arrest was issued out of Bennington County on Tuesday for charges related to eluding police.

According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Detective Lawrence Cole, on Dec. 22 a woman called 911 to report a masked man breaking into a home where she was working as a caretaker for an elderly woman suffering dementia. The woman said the man broke in through a window, pointed a gun at her and screamed "Where is the safe?"

He told her to lay on the floor, which she did not do, then he went rummaging through bedroom closets, eventually leaving with a small black box and saying, "I'm sorry."

Elwell's name came up after police had a conversation with his estranged wife. She had seen photos police released of an armed robbery at Subway on North Street in January and said the robber's pants belonged to Elwell.

Cole said he found a report from Dec. 22 where Sausville told police that on Dec. 21, Elwell was at her house, with Harrington, and that he was wearing dark clothing and had a gun. She said he asked her what she would do if he pointed the gun at her and demanded she hand over everything she had.

This incident would have taken place hours before the Putnam Street robbery. Cole also noted that Sausville was once a caretaker for the elderly woman who was robbed.

Cole spoke to Sausville on Jan. 29. She said Elwell was asking her for drugs, then Harrington asked about the elderly woman, if she had any drugs or money. Sausville told them the woman used to keep money in the home, and probably had drugs. She said she had no idea the two planned to rob anyone.

Cole wrote that after this interview, he received information alleging that Sausville and Harrington had gone with Elwell to the Putnam Street robbery, but the two got nervous because he was taken so long and drove off.

Sausville denied this, and said Harrington told her she and Elwell had gone to visit a friend at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in Swanton and on the way back had robbed stores. Cole learned that the Cumberland Farms in Wallingford had been robbed on Dec. 20 at 11:30 p.m. and that Elwell and Harrington had visited an inmate in Swanton on that date some hours before.

According to Cole, the inmate they spoke to told a guard that the pair had talked about robbing Subway in Bennington.

Police decided to arrest Elwell, and thought they could do so at a traffic stop on Feb. 16, since they knew he was going somewhere. He failed to pull over on Route 7 near the Shaftsbury exit and fled into New York where he was ultimately arrested on the northway in Swanton, N.Y.

Later, police talked to a woman who reported that Elwell told her about the Putnam Street robbery and others. She said Sausville and Harrington waited in the car while he robbed the Putnam Street home, but drove off and left him after they got nervous. He also talked about robbing the Cumberland Farms in Wallingford, and that he got $80 from it. This was the same amount reported stolen.

When police spoke to Harrington, she corroborated the woman's story, saying she drove while Sausville rode in the back. She said it was Sausville's idea and that she gave Elwell information on where to look for the valuables. She also claimed Sausville told Elwell about a hidden key, which he apparently did not use, and provided him with tape in case he needed to tie someone up.

Harrington told police she drove for Elwell when he robbed the Cumberland Farms in Wallingford. She denied direct knowledge of any other robbery.

When police spoke to Sausville for a third time, she admitted to her involvement in the Putnam Street robbery, saying she had planned to do it on her own initially, but changed her mind. She said she was unemployed at the time and was using "a lot of Adderall."

She denied supplying Elwell with tape.

— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115


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