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Avon man’s fate unknown as police probe disappearance

4 men, including officer, accused of plot, with victim’s fate uncertain

James J. Robertson disappeared after getting into a car with two men dressed as constables on New Year’s Day.

Norfolk DA

James J. Robertson disappeared after getting into a car with two men dressed as constables on New Year’s Day.

DEDHAM — The last time his family saw him, James J. Robertson was sitting in a silver Toyota Camry on New Year’s Day with two men dressed as constables who told him he was needed in Dedham for a surprise drug test for his probation.

The men had arrived at the Avon home of Robertson’s parents at about 12:45 p.m. His mother, Virginia, asked whether they would be back. The driver, who had a gun and a badge on his hip, replied, “Yes, we will bring him back.”

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But Robertson, 37, never returned, according to an affidavit filed in Norfolk Superior Court.

No one — not his estranged wife, nor his children, ages 10 and 3 — has heard from him since. There has been no cellphone or debit card activity. Authorities believe he is dead.

No one has been charged with Robertson’s death. But a suspected drug dealer, and two men who allegedly owed him money for pills, are accused of kidnapping Robertson. A Dedham police officer is accused of aiding the plot.

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The affidavit alleges a chilling suburban conspiracy propelled by addiction, spurned love, and obsession. Even more disturbing is that a policeman was willing to lend his badge and other police gear to aid in the kidnapping, according to prosecutors.

The architect of the plot is identified by prosecutors as James M. Feeney, 44, of Dedham, an alleged drug dealer. Feeney was angry that Robertson was dating his former girlfriend, and he also suspected Robertson of informing on him, according to a police affidavit written by State Police Trooper Brian Tully and dated May 28.

“Robertson . . . asked where they were going and Ricci told him to calm down, someone wanted to speak to him.”

Brian Tully, state police trooper, writing in a police affidavit 
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The affidavit was impounded at the request of prosecutors in Stoughton District Court. But it was available last week in Norfolk Superior Court as part of a request from one of the defendants for a bail reduction.

The Globe is not divulging portions of the affidavit at the request of the office of Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey.

In the waning days of 2013, according to the affidavit, Feeney revealed a scheme to two of his drug customers — Alfred A. Ricci III, 45, of Canton, and Scott W. Morrison, 46, of Norfolk, both of whom owed Feeney money. The plan was to abduct Robertson.

“Feeney was obsessing over Robertson,” Tully, in the affidavit, quotes Ricci as saying.

Feeney offered Ricci and Morrison a deal.

“Feeney told them that if they went to get Robertson he would wipe their debt clean and give them some pills,” the affidavit says.

Sometime before New Year’s Day, Feeney told the two men how he wanted Robertson picked up. Feeney gave Morrison a duffel bag containing a silver police badge attached to a belt clip, a black handgun in a holster, and a manila folder containing Robertson’s picture, and what Ricci believed to be his criminal record, Tully wrote.

Dedham police Officer Michael Schoener was arraigned last week, accused of providing Feeney with the badge, paperwork, holster, and handcuffs.

At the time, Ricci told police, he thought Feeney merely wanted to speak with Robertson.

On New Year’s Day, on Feeney’s instructions, Morrison and Ricci allegedly set out for Robertson’s house in Avon.

When they pulled up, Morrison got out of his Camry wearing a badge and gun and carrying the manila folder while Ricci stood at the passenger side, Tully wrote. Robertson was outside, having just gone to the family boat to fetch a wrench he needed to clear a clog from a bathroom sink, his father told police.

“Morrison told Robertson that they were probation officers and they need him to come with them and take a urine test,” Tully wrote.

Robertson’s father told police his son, who struggled with drugs and alcohol, had submitted to drug testing as a condition of probation ordered by the Stoughton District Court, the affidavit says. So Robertson would not have been alarmed by the surprise visit.

Robertson’s mother and a family friend saw the Camry drive away. Inside the vehicle, Robertson was handcuffed behind the back, Ricci told police.

Within 15 minutes of leaving his parents’ house, his mother told investigators, calls to Robertson’s cellphone went straight to voice mail. Ricci told police that he turned off Robertson’s phone and sent a text message to Feeney, saying Robertson was with them, Tully wrote.

“Robertson . . . asked where they were going and Ricci told him to calm down, someone wanted to speak to him,” the affidavit says.

They drove to Ricci’s house in Canton, where Feeney was waiting in a champagne-colored Buick. Ricci and Morrison put Robertson, still handcuffed, in the front passenger seat next to Feeney and handed over the gun, badge, paperwork, bag, and Robertson’s cellphone, Tully wrote.

Feeney gave them four or five Percocet pills each, Tully wrote.

Feeney left with Robertson. Ricci told police he saw the two together two more times that night, and spoke with Feeney twice.

“Ricci said that after that day they never spoke about the incident. He said after Robertson was reported missing the cops started to come around. Feeney told Ricci that Robertson owed his family money and he probably just took off,” Tully wrote.

Robertson’s family declined to speak with a reporter last Thursday and did not return a message on Friday.

Ricci was arrested and charged with kidnapping after speaking with investigators on May 28 at the Canton police station, Tully wrote. His lawyer declined to comment.

Morrison surrendered to police after a warrant was issued for his arrest, said his lawyer, Edward J. McCormick III. He has pleaded not guilty, the lawyer said.

“I’m not giving any credibility to any statements in any police report,” McCormick said.

Feeney was already in custody on unrelated drug and gun cases when he was charged with kidnapping and conspiracy on May 29, court records show. His attorney, Elliot R. Levine, said he has not received any evidence in the case.

All three men pleaded not guilty to charges in the district court, but have since been indicted by a grand jury and face arraignments this week in Norfolk Superior Court. They are being held on bail.

Schoener, the Dedham police officer, pleaded not guilty last Wednesday to one count of being an accessory before the fact of kidnapping. His lawyer did not return a message Friday.

Peggie Krippendorf, a spokeswoman for Morrissey declined to comment, citing an active investigation.

More coverage of area mysteries:

• 7/2013: Box of bones sent to Globe brings end to long mystery

•Thomas Farragher: The mystery of Provincetown’s Lady of the Dunes, 40 years later

• Ideas: Unsolved mysteries of Boston

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.
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