By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
NORTH HERO – A Vermont Superior Court jury was unable to reach agreement on three criminal charges filed against an Alburgh man in connection with the theft of several firearms during a residential break-in two years ago.
Theodore Bruce, 29, was charged with burglary into a dwelling, grand larceny and aiding in the commission of a felony, all on July 17, 2017 in Alburgh.
Grand Isle County State’s Attorney Doug DiSabito presented about a dozen witnesses, including members of the Grand Isle County Sheriff’s Department and U.S. Border Patrol along with a few eyewitnesses.
Bruce was the lone witness called by defense lawyer Kathy Strahm of Burlington as part of the 2½-day trial, which ended Thursday.
The jurors deliberated about three hours before reporting to Judge Robert Mello that they were deadlocked and it was unlikely there would be any movement by either side.
Bruce was returned to the Northwest State Correctional Facility where he has been serving time for two burglaries, aggravated assault and false pretenses, records show.
DiSabito said he plans to proceed with a second trial for Bruce, formerly of Highgate.
A co-defendant, Storm Choiniere, 28, of Swanton is awaiting trial. He also is detained at the prison in St. Albans.
The Grand Isle County Sheriff’s Department said the case centers on a burglary in progress complaint about 7 a.m. July 17, 2017.
The home owner, Brian Gaudette, said he allowed Bruce to live in a camper on the property. Bruce and Choiniere said they were looking for Choiniere’s mother, who is listed as Gaudette’s girlfriend, court papers show.
Gaudette said Choiniere knew his mother was not there, but in the hospital. Gaudette said he had made clear that when he is not home, Bruce can not enter the house, court records show.
The home owner’s son, Kolby Gaudette reported the two men had left the house carrying away some of his father’s property including rifles and other long guns, Deputy Sheriff Jason Essinger said in a court affidavit. The deputy said he later was told handguns also were missing.
U.S. Border Patrol Agents intercepted a blue Jeep Liberty that the two burglars reportedly fled in, Essinger said. He said Bruce, the driver, and Choiniere, a passenger, both admitted they were at the Gaudette home, but maintained they took nothing.
No guns were found in the Jeep, the deputy reported. However Steven Prenoveau of Homeland Security Investigations, who was off-duty, later reported he saw the Jeep stopped at a residence on Greenwoods Road about the time of the burglary, court records show.
Vermont State Police reported that night the missing long guns were recovered in the brush and field at Blair and Leduc roads along the Canadian border, Essinger said in his court affidavit.
The deputy noted the U.S. Border Patrol surveillance cameras captured the blue Jeep in the area of the recovered guns about 7 a.m. the day of the burglary. Several handguns and swords were still missing, he said.