ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. — Two Vermont men were arraigned today on charges that they murdered a 78-year-old widow with ties to Massachusetts during a botched robbery in 2010.
Richard Fletcher, 27, and his half-brother, Keith Baird, 33, are charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mary “Pat” O’Hagan, a former Chelmsford resident who retired to Sheffield, Vt., in 1995.
A judge set bail at $500,000 for each, though both were already being held in other cases.
A third man, Michael “Mouse Boy” Norrie, 23, of St. Johnsbury, was not arraigned but is also facing a first-degree murder charge, according to a statement from the Vermont State Police.
Norrie, who is also incarcerated on another case, is a cousin of Fletcher and Baird’s, court records show. The three men are also charged with burglary and kidnapping in the attack on O’Hagan.
“My mom’s never coming back,” said O’Hagan’s eldest son, Matthew. “It’s a large case. It’s a complicated case and we got a long way to go.”
O’Hagan, a grandmother of nine who was well-known in Sheffield for her civic and church activities, was last seen Sept. 10, 2010. She was reported missing after she missed a rug-making meeting.
Her remains were found about four weeks later, on Oct. 3, 2010, in Wheelock, which is about 10 miles from her home, police said. She was found face-down, wearing a sweatshirt, socks, and white sneakers, according to an affidavit by Vermont State Police Sergeant Jason Letourneau that was filed in court.
She was nude from the waist down, and items including a yellow rope, a red tie-down strap, and an electrical cord were found next to her body, Letourneau wrote.
Investigators allege O’Hagan was killed after Fletcher, Norrie, and Baird confronted her inside her home. A struggle ensued and Fletcher, either by accident or to scare O’Hagan, fired a shotgun into the kitchen ceiling, the affidavit said.
Norrie allegedly then shot O’Hagan in the back of the head, killing her, Letourneau wrote. The men moved O’Hagan’s body to an abandoned property located next to the woman’s home. O’Hagan’s body was moved again from that property, which was searched after she went missing, police said.
Fletcher, who is described by police as a criminal forensic science buff, was put in charge of cleaning up the scene, police said. He told a cellmate that he wore a body suit with booties and gloves, and used bleach, paper towels, and rags to clean. He later used luminol, a chemical used to detect blood, and a black light to check the scene, Letourneau’s affidavit said.
The men moved O’Hagan’s body for a final time, possibly days later, to the location where she was found, Letourneau wrote. Fletcher told a cellmate that O’Hagan’s body was wrapped in a tarp, and driven to Wheelock by Norrie and Baird, the affidavit said.
Police said their investigation had uncovered multiple accounts of the events leading up to the murder.
Norrie allegedly told authorities that he, Fletcher, and Baird were doing crystal meth and were looking to get more that night. He added that he went to O’Hagan’s house to look for pills.
Baird allegedly told a witness that he and others went to scare O’Hagan because she threatened to call police about stolen property being stored in a barn near her home.
Fletcher allegedly told another witness that O’Hagan was killed after she learned the men had a meth lab inside an abandoned house near her home.
Yet another witness claimed the men wanted to rob O’Hagan of charitable donations she collected at a local event.
Authorities also heard allegations that O’Hagan was sexually assaulted during the attack, but investigators were unable to determine whether that was true.
While no charges were brought in O’Hagan’s death until Thursday, allegations that Baird, Fletcher, and Norrie played a role in the killing had surfaced previously during unrelated criminal proceedings in federal court in Vermont.
While Norrie was being prosecuted for federal firearms offenses, he confessed to “part of the murder,” Letourneau, the State Police investigator, said in testimony in federal court in November 2012.
Norrie pleaded guilty to two gun charges and was sentenced Nov. 25 to serve four years and eight months in prison, according to federal court records. He is being held at a federal facility in White Deer, Pa., according to the US Bureau of Prisons.
Fletcher pleaded guilty in January 2013 to federal charges of sexual exploitation of children and sexual exploitation of minors, court records show. He was sentenced to serve 15 years and 8 months in federal prison. Fletcher is currently being held at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vermont State Police said.
During Fletcher’s sentencing hearing, US District Court Judge Christina Reiss found the government had “proven by a preponderance of the evidence” that he played a role in the killing, according to a transcript of the hearing.
Fletcher’s alleged involvement included cleaning up the crime scene and letting his truck be used to transport O’Hagan’s body, Reiss said from the bench.
During the same hearing, the judge also described claims that Fletcher made about Baird’s part in O’Hagan’s death.
Baird is currently being held on bail at the Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury for allegations that he violated conditions of release and violated a restraining order. He faces an additional charge as a habitual offender.Laura Crimaldi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.