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The arrest of a former West Pawlet man in Alaska by the FBI for reportedly making long-distance death threats to a group of Vermonters was sparked by an initial investigation by Vermont State Police, authorities said.

Benjamin C. Tarbell, 34, now of Kasilof, Alaska, is charged with making death threats to at least four people believed to be in Vermont — most, if not all, are relatives, court records show. Tarbell has gone downhill in the wake of his divorce case, federal court records show.

Vermont State Police Detective Lt. Christopher Barber said Friday that the early death threats were reported to the Rutland barracks. After some internal discussion, a decision was made to hand the case off to the FBI, according to Barber, who oversees criminal cases in southwestern Vermont. It remains unclear why the FBI in Vermont did not tackle the case and it was punted to Alaska. A spokesman for the FBI in Alaska was unable to provide a response by deadline Friday.

Tarbell, who moved from Vermont to Alaska in April, made threats to several family members, including that he planned to kill his parents, his brother and others. He also made two phone calls to the Massachusetts State Police during the early morning hours of Sept. 1, and promised he would blow up the barracks and kill everybody, the indictment said.

Authorities intercepted Tarbell as he tried to check in at the Kenai Municipal Airport in Alaska with a rifle, two handguns, ammunition, two knives and a tactical vest on Sept. 10.

While Tarbell said the Green Mountain Boys of the Air National Guard would drop the bombs on the state police, there is no evidence he ever belonged to the guard. Tarbell never served in either the Air or Army National Guard in Vermont, according to Maj. J. Scott Detweiler, acting state public affairs officer.

Tarbell was arrested on a criminal complaint, and the grand jury this week leveled five counts of making interstate threats and one count of cyberstalking.

The FBI and court records fail to provide names of the victims or their initials. The indictment numbers the victims 1 through 5. The indictment outlines the following:

• Victim 1 was threatened Aug. 4 in a text message: “You will die.”

• Victim 2 was threatened Aug. 31 in an Instagram message: “I am going to kill you.”

• Victim 3 was threatened also on Aug. 31 in a text message: “I’m going to kill you … kiss your (expletive) good by.”

• Victim 4 was threatened Sept. 1 in a cellphone call that the defendant would “bomb the State Police and kill every one of you mother (expletive.)”

• Victim 5 was threatened Sept. 3 in a text message: “say your goodbyes to your sister … sometimes I wonder if I should kill you also.”

The sixth count maintains that Tarbell, between Aug. 4 and Sept. 10, primarily targeted victim 1 by harassing or intimidating her by using the mail, any interactive computer service or electronic communication service. It notes that Tarbell repeatedly sent text messages to victim 1, while using texts, Instagram and phone calls for victims 2 through 5 and others.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew M. Scoble ordered Tarbell held both as a risk of flight and a danger to himself and the community. Scoble ruled the weight of the evidence is strong, and that Tarbell has a history of violence or the use of weapons.

“Defendant arrested while traveling to Vermont in possession of weapons,” Scoble wrote in ordering him held at the Anchorage Jail.

Tarbell was initially told he would have a probable cause hearing next Wednesday afternoon in Anchorage, but he lost that opportunity when the grand jury returned the indictment.

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No date is set for the arraignment.

“The threats escalated in the violent tone as week went on,” according to Special Agent Wendy Terry, who is assigned to the bureau’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Alaska. The task force investigates both international terrorist organizations and homegrown violent extremists, Terry said.

Slate Ridge owner mentioned

Tarbell made a wide range of threats and comments, including one referencing the operator of the Slate Ridge shooting range in Pawlet, Daniel Banyai.

Tarbell warned one person in a message to “steer clear of bonyai he is telling me he’s going to run a train on you and (expletive) you. He’s a dangerous coward and needs to die,” a screenshot of one text notes.

Spelling, punctuation and capitalization are off in some of the notes that are incorporated into the criminal complaint filed with the court.

Banyai said Friday that he was unaware of the case until Thursday night when friends said a couple of Vermont print newspapers had posted stories about the arrest on their websites.

He said he has no relationship with Tarbell and never talked to him. He had seen him at meetings at the Town Hall.

Banyai said law enforcement authorities have not been forthcoming with him when he files a complaint of trespass on his property or harassment. He singled out the state police.

The state police issued a statement defending its efforts.

“The Vermont State Police takes all reports from members of the public seriously and allocates the appropriate resources to investigate matters when they arise,” the department said.

Reclaiming ‘6891’?

Tarbell makes reference to trying to reclaim “6891.” Public records show he once lived at 6891 Vermont Route 30 in West Pawlet.

“I will reside at 6891. It’s my home.” he said in another message.

The FBI said Tarbell called the state police in Massachusetts on Sept. 1 at 1:06 a.m. and demanded the arrest of a person and he was told to call the local police department where the person lived. The person nor the town were identified.

It was during a second phone call at 1:28 a.m. that Tarbell claimed he would bomb the barracks and “kill everyone of you mother (expletive).”


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