BENNINGTON — A man accused of killing a woman in Bennington this January pleaded not guilty Monday to an unrelated misdemeanor charge.
Darren Pronto, 32, is facing a new charge of unlawful mischief greater than $250. It carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Pronto appeared in court via video link from Southern State Correctional Facility, in Springfield, where he is being held without bail on a first-degree murder charge.
His new charge stems from an incident in Pownal on Dec. 1, when police said Pronto’s neighbors on Middle Pownal Road complained about his causing a disturbance.
The couple who lived in the apartment directly above him, Jacob Zampini and Olivia Burdick, accused Pronto of throwing furniture on their porch and breaking the glass windows of their door, according to state police’s statement of probable cause in the cause.
It said Burdick, 19, also told troopers that Pronto “jiggled” their doorknob, trying to enter the apartment.
But Zampini, 20, earlier told police dispatch that he didn’t believe Pronto was trying to enter their apartment.
The couple said they were having dinner that night when Pronto went upstairs and “began breaking things unprovoked,” according to the affidavit by Trooper Tyler Silva. Both Burdick and Zampini said they’d had no significant interactions with Pronto and rarely saw him.
Another neighbor, however, reportedly told troopers that Pronto had threatened his family. Joshua Allen, 33, said Pronto had threatened to have his two children abducted, and he believed Pronto had also cut his two window screens.
Troopers spoke with Pronto — who was living in his mother’s apartment — and noted that most of his statements were “incoherent.” Silva said Pronto showed signs of drug impairment: he was sweating profusely, had dilated pupils and was rambling as well as speaking rapidly.
Pronto reportedly admitted to “vandalism,” but told troopers it wasn’t a crime in Vermont. Pronto said also that Allen had threatened him with a gun, believing incorrectly that he was going to harm Allen’s children, according to the affidavit. Pronto denied cutting Allen’s window screens.
Troopers checked Pronto’s hands for injuries and said they found none.
Silva said Pronto admitted going to the apartment upstairs, breaking a window and cutting a screen.
He supposedly said his second-floor female neighbor — whom state police believe to be Burdick — was using “heavy duty words” that “trigger your mind and make you do something” and she “needed to be warned.”
The property manager reportedly told state police back in December that she was going to apply for an emergency eviction on Pronto. Meanwhile, troopers told residents they couldn’t remove Pronto from the apartment complex because his mother had allowed him to live there.
In January, state police said the property manager provided them with the cost to repair the damages Pronto was believed to have made. It was around $4,100, which included legal fees.
On Monday, the court granted the Bennington County State’s Attorney’s request for Pronto not to have contact with Zambini, Burdick and Allen. He is represented by the county public defender’s office, which is also handling his murder case.