Woman held on vehicle theft

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BENNINGTON — A woman who Manchester police were seeking in connection with a vehicle stolen from Pennsylvania is being held on $20,000 bail.

Christine O. Powers, 51, was arrested Saturday after attempting to flee police officers in Manchester, according to prosecutors.

Powers pleaded not guilty in Vermont Superior Court Bennington Criminal Division on Monday to felony aggravated vehicle operation without owner consent, and misdemeanor possessing stolen property $900 or less.

Judge David A. Howard, during Powers' arraignment, cited the seriousness of the felony charge and her limited ties to the state when he continued the bail set after her arrest.

If convicted on the felony, Powers could face up to five years in prison, a fine up to $2,000, or both.

When Manchester police investigated a suspicious white van on Depot Street on Sept. 3, they found it bore a stolen Florida license plate and the vehicle identification number had been scraped off, according to an affidavit by Dt. Abigail Zimmer. That plate, reported stolen in New York on July 25, was placed over a Pennsylvania license plate for a 2004 Chevrolet 2500 reported stolen in Girard, Penn. on July 20. A couch and some personal items were found inside, including a check stub and phone bill in Powers' name.

The vehicle's owner had allowed Powers to sleep in the van "with the understanding that it would be until Powers was able to figure out other accommodations," according to the affidavit. Powers sent the owner a text message on July 20 saying she had taken the van to New York and "would be back in a couple weeks."

"Powers was never given permission to take the van anywhere, as the van was not inspected," Zimmer wrote, adding that the owner had belongings taken from her home.

After distributing pictures of Powers, the Manchester police received several calls that she was seen in the area.

Deputy State's Attorney Robert F. Plunkett said Manchester officers arrested Powers on Saturday after she was seen in town. When officers called her name, she ran away and at one point ran into traffic to elude police. She was arrested after a foot pursuit and struggle, he said.

Defense attorney Frederick Bragdon asked the court release Powers with conditions instead of continuing $20,000 bail. Bragdon said Powers has lived with a Manchester Center woman "at least on a temporary basis" for about six weeks and has been seeking employment.

"She tells me she didn't flee from police, although she realized they wanted her," Bragdon said.

Plunkett argued that Powers is a flight risk because of her lack of ties to the area. A extraditable warrant from Pennsylvania was set to be issued by Monday afternoon, he said, meaning if she was released, she would be arrested as a fugitive from that state.

Plunkett said Powers is being investigated for allegedly attempting to "swindle" a credit card from the woman she lived with.

"My guess is she is no longer welcome there," Plunkett said.

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

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