by Mike Donoghue
BURLINGTON — A pair of out-of-staters, who police have linked to unrelated homicides in Vermont in recent months, were ordered held without bail following their appearances in U.S. District Court on Wednesday on federal charges. One defendant could be linked to more killings in Hartford, Conn., court records show.
Elias J. Lopez, 18, of Hartford, Conn. pleaded not guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and with possession of a firearm while trafficking drugs in Windham County in August. The government also wants Lopez, also known as “Louis” and “Joey” to forfeit $12,2023 in cash and a Glock 9-mm pistol that were seized during a raid last week.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Vermont Drug Task Force and state police arrested Lopez at an apartment at 84 Linden Street last Thursday on a federal criminal complaint and he was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday a few hours before his planned detention hearing.
Lopez is part of a Hartford, Conn.-based group that set up their drug trafficking business to sell crack cocaine and fentanyl/heroin from four residences in Brattleboro over the past year or two: 84 Linden Street, 14 Birge Street, where a homicide happened, 33 Oak Street and 135 Elliot Street, court papers note.
Tamico “Mack” Williams, 21, of Hartford, Conn. a rival drug dealer, was found fatally shot on the kitchen floor with a gun next to him in a ground floor apartment on Birge Street the night of March 30, state police said. Five 9-mm casings were found on the floor and one more outside, police said. One witness reported about a dozen people were at the apartment when Williams, also known as “Olney” was shot, state police said.
The state charged Lopez with the second-degree murder on Friday, one day after a joint federal and state raid. Lopez was 17 at the time of the shooting and turned 18 on June 30, police said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Fuller painted a bleak picture of multiple shootings both in Vermont and Hartford, Conn. appear linked. In filing her motion to detain Lopez, Fuller wrote two men died as part of a street corner shooting in Hartford during the early morning hours of Aug. 11.
Fuller wrote more than 100 rounds were fired and some shell casings at the Hartford scene indicated at least one firearm used in that shooting had also been fired during the homicide on Birge Street on March 30 that Lopez is facing.
Fuller said in a second case, investigators test fired a 9mm firearm seized from 84 Linden Street last week and a preliminary examination showed it was the same weapon used in three other “shots fired” shootings in Hartford, Conn. in the past year.
Defense lawyer Jordana M. Levine said she would not contest the government’s request for detention of Lopez at this point. She noted Lopez is facing a “serious” charge when he gets arraigned in state court.
Magistrate Judge Kevin J. Doyle, in agreeing with detention, noted the state charge was a murder count. State Judge Katherine A. Hayes has ordered Lopez held without bail until he can at least be arraigned. The state has filed a detainer with the U.S. Marshals Service, which is holding him.
Fuller said the case was still unfolding and Lopez had made three drug sales in February 2023.
Levine asked Doyle for 120 days to investigate the case and to consider pre-trial motions.
Doyle said normally 90 days is the maximum allowed, but Levine noted the serious nature of the state case and the complexities. Doyle agreed to set Dec. 21 as the deadline
Meanwhile an hour before the Lopez hearing, Zaquikon T. Roy, 35, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who is wanted on state charges of murder and attempted murder in a double shooting in Addison County, appeared briefly in the same federal courtroom.
Doyle explained the initial hearing in U.S. District Court was designed to ensured Roy knew he was facing a federal charge of possession of a firearm in Rutland County on April 7 and 8 while being a convicted felon. Courts records show Roy has multiple drug and gun felony convictions in Vermont and New York.
Chief Federal Defender Michael Desautels asked for a 5-day continuance before the court considered the detention motion filed by Fuller. A second federal charge of unlawful flights to avoid prosecution has been dropped. It was filed only to allow the FBI to join the nationwide search.
Roy is a part-time Vermont resident having lived in earlier years in the Rutland area. He more recently was running with a St. Albans area woman, Kimberly “Nikki” Bouchard, 36, who was present during the Leicester shooting, police said. Bouchard, also known as Kimberly Coons is facing a federal drug charge for a sale in Franklin County.
Roy is facing murder, attempted murder and gun charges in Addison County, but has not been arraigned in state court for shooting the two brothers, including one that died on June 4, Vermont State Police said.
Roy is charged with killing Scott Lanpher, 35, and seriously wounding his brother, Larry Lanpher Jr., 31, at a camper at 1352 U.S. 7 in the tiny town of Leicester about 9:55 p.m., State Police said. The younger brother was critically wounded, but later recovered, police said.
Fuller, in her detention motion, said the double shooting case remains under investigation, but noted some recent information indicated Roy was in Leicester to sell drugs when the Lanpher brothers were shot. Fuller said there is some belief the two brothers and others may have been attempting to steal money and drugs from Roy and he shot them during the dispute.
She said Roy first fled to New York City after the homicide and family members were contacted urging him to surrender. Instead investigators determined Roy fled to Maine and spotted him leaving an apartment building on foot on Aug. 10.
Fuller said Roy was caught after a short foot chase. He was found with 11 grams of crack cocaine and a cellphone, she said. The apartment contained a 9-mm firearm, cash and numerous cellphones.
“In short while on the run from a murder charge, Roy went back to drug trafficking, firearms possession and fleeing from law enforcement,” Fuller wrote. She noted it fits his pattern of committing new crimes while other charges are pending.
Linden Street probe
Back in Brattleboro, investigators are still continuing to try to unearth more evidence.
Lopez’s business partner, Jayden G. Rios, 17, of Hartford, Conn., who also is known as “X” is mentioned for drug trafficking throughout both federal and state court papers, but no known public charges have been filed against him. Federal authorities need permission from the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. to file charges against somebody under age 18.
Vermont, which allowed 16-year-olds and up to be prosecuted in adult court, is in the process of allowing criminals up to age 23 years-old to avoid public criminal prosecutions and penalties. They are treated as “Youthful Offenders” behind closed doors in Family Court with no real consequences and a chance to have their cases sealed or expunged, public safety advocates note.
Rios may have been ordered into Family Court in Windham County, but the public probably won’t be told. No real punishment can be imposed in state juvenile cases because Vermont has closed down its juvenile jail.
Vermont authorities have reported a huge ongoing uptick in the number of out-of-state teenagers being recruited — especially by gangs — to come to the Green Mountains for drug trafficking because of the lax state laws and courts.
Rutland, Bennington, Windham, Washington, Chittenden, Caledonia and Orleans counties are seeing the largest influx of out-of-state drug dealers looking to set up shop in Vermont, law enforcement officials have said.
Two other Brattleboro area residents, William Roy 38, and his girlfriend, Addyson Morgan, 26 also were found living at the Linden Street apartment during the raid, the ATF said. Roy and Morgan have been ordered to appear in U.S. District Court in Burlington at 1 p.m. Sept. 8 to face felony charges of knowingly and willfully conspiring to distribute crack cocaine in Windham County in August.
A fifth person, Michael White, 39, of Brattleboro was ordered detained Tuesday afternoon on a felony charge of essentially allowing his apartment to operate as a “Crack House,” court records show.
White, who had a signed rental agreement for the 84 Linden Street apartment, is charged with allowing the unlawful storing, distributing or using of controlled substances at the residence, the ATF said in court papers.
Lopez and Rios had between 20 and 30 drug customers each day stopping by the apartment to make buys, according to White and Roy when interviewed after the raid, the ATF affidavit said.
Fuller, the prosecutor, said the drug dealing business in Brattleboro operated the same at the four locations. The investigation showed drug buyers would come to the apartment in search of illegal drugs, the ATF said. In the case of Linden Street, it was Roy and Morgan mostly, but sometimes White answering the door, taking down the drug orders from prospective customers and going to either Lopez or Rios with the request, the court affidavit said. Lopez or Rios would weigh the drugs on a scale, secure the drugs and either turn them over to the buyer personally or provide them to Roy or Morgan to complete the sale, court records show.
The confidential informants indicated Lopez and Rios always had a firearm in their possession or somewhere in their immediate vicinity during the drug sales, the ATF said.
Williams and friends had come to Brattleboro on March 30, the day of the homicide to try to set up their own drug business, state police said. The plan was to try to find “licks” or “Feens” meaning drug users to sell drugs to in the community. Tamico was carrying a black .38-caliber revolver, which was later found next to his body after the shooting, police said.
State police said a witness reported that a friend from Connecticut came to Vermont after the fatal shooting to collect Lopez, Rios and the 9-mm gun used in the homicide and head back home.