Man wanted for questioning in woman's death believed dead

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WINOOSKI — Winooski Police say they believe a former Bennington County man wanted for questioning in the suspicious death of an ex-Arlington mother of two young girls has killed himself.

Keith D. Gaston, 32, was captured on surveillance camera videos plunging headfirst into the powerful, rain-swollen Winooski River about 2:16 p.m. Nov. 1, Police Chief Rick Hebert said.

Gaston, formerly of Arlington and Bennington, never resurfaced and remains missing, the chief said. Gaston, who did not leave any known note, was the only person of interest in the suspicious death case, the chief said.

The mother of his two daughters, Hannah Keyes, 28, had been found dead about 10:05 p.m. on Nov. 2 at their apartment at 65 Audet St. in Winooski, police said. She was a 2010 graduate of Arlington Memorial High School.

Vermont's Chief Medical Examiner's Office has been unable to determine a cause or manner of death for Keyes, police said. The investigation continues and toxicology tests results are pending.

The daughters, ages 3 and 4, were found safe, but unattended in the basement apartment, police said. The storm door was closed, but the wooden door was a few inches ajar.

Hebert confirmed on Friday that numerous wrappers from Halloween candy were found scattered in the apartment, apparently consumed for meals by the girls over a day or more when left alone.

Keyes' sister has indicated her sibling had no known issues with alcohol or drugs, the chief said.

Police said they were told Gaston worked at Global Foundries in Essex. The company was not forthcoming initially as the investigation unfolded, Hebert said.

Winooski Police said they were never called for any reason to the apartment shared by the family of four.

Bennington Police had a different story about Gaston.

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Police Chief Paul Doucette said his department had several contacts with Gaston from the time he was a student at the now-defunct Southern Vermont College until a year ago. The veteran chief said the criminal cases ranged from supplying alcohol to minors to aggravated assault.

Vermont State Police said Gaston also faced a second aggravated assault charge for a fight while he was detained at the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland in October 2014.

Gaston, who is from Oak Park, Michigan, a Detroit suburb, played men's basketball for the SVC Mountaineers starting in 2006-07. He eventually graduated in May 2012 with a degree in business administration and sports management. The college listed Gaston as a Hoosick Falls, N.Y. resident in a graduation news release.

Hebert said it was odd the father of two girls had disappeared and left the children unattended. There also was no indication of credit card use or cellphone calls/texts by Gaston in subsequent days. His Volvo was found parked on West Canal Street not far from the Winooski River last Sunday, Nov. 3.

Police began searching for possible area video surveillance and the Winooski Mill Apartments eventually provided footage of Gaston parking his car at 1:58 p.m. on Friday Nov. 1 in front of the historic brick complex.

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Hebert said the Mill's outside video and other city-owned cameras from downtown Winooski traced Gaston for about 100 yards to Main Street near the bridge that is the Winooski-Burlington boundary. The video showed Gaston crossing at a traffic rotary toward the historic Champlain Mill and to the Winooski Riverwalk.

The chief said Gaston is pictured having two cigarettes on the Riverwalk above the Winooski River. He walks through a break in the fence down about 10 to 12 feet to the river's edge and while standing on a rock smokes a third cigarette, the chief said.

At 2:16 p.m. Gaston dives headfirst into the roaring Winooski River, which was about 16 feet above its normal height due to an overwhelming rainstorm on Halloween night, the chief said. The major river handles runoff from the area, including nearby mountains.

The chief said based on the police investigation and in consultation with Michael Cannon, chief of Colchester Technical Rescue, it was determined "due to the elevated strength and depth of the water that Gaston could not have survived."

Hebert said police also conferred with Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah Fair George.

Police will continue to try to locate Gaston's body.

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The chief believes one of three things is likely: 1) the body will get caught before the dam and be found shortly along the shore; 2) it went over the dam and will end up in Lake Champlain; 3) it went over the dam and will end up in a nearby heavily flooded cornfield caused by the excessive rain. Hebert said if the third option happens he suspects hunters may find the body.

Hebert said by coincidence Winooski had replaced the city's surveillance cameras last week and that allowed two of them to capture Gaston's movements on the Riverwalk.

Gaston's car was located on Sunday after a parking enforcement officer issued it a warning and later returned hours later to ticket the Volvo. The police dispatcher recognized it as a car wanted as part of the suspicious death case.

The chief said the Keyes family, including a sister in Chittenden County were notified on Friday about Gaston's death.

Hebert said police also reached out to Gaston's mother in Baltimore and an aunt in Michigan. Gaston's father also still resides in the Detroit area.

Police believe Gaston had lived in the Winooski area for about six months. Keyes appears to have been here for about two years, Hebert said.

The case began to unfold when Winooski Police said officers were asked Saturday evening by Keyes' employer to do a welfare check. The Arbors, a senior living center in Shelburne asked police to check the apartment because Keyes failed to appear for work.

The Arbors said it was unable to say how long Keyes had worked there as a resident care associate.

The two daughters, who were found inside the apartment were checked by the Department for Children and Families and later turned over to a family member, Hebert said.

The two daughters, who made some comments to Winooski Police when found, were later interviewed by investigators from the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations.

The chief said investigators next week still plan to go through phones and other electronic gear that had been seized through court-ordered search warrants.


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