Crime and Justice

2 defendants plead not guilty in Tuesday’s shooting at St. Johnsbury Maplefields

Felipe Cotto Jr., 40, of Chicopee, Massachusetts, pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of attempted second-degree murder and aggravated assault. He pleaded not guilty on both counts on Friday. Screenshot

Two people have pleaded not guilty to charges in what police described as a drug-related shooting that critically injured a Barnet man outside a St. Johnsbury Maplefields on Tuesday night. 

Felipe Cotto Jr., 40, of Chicopee, Massachusetts, was charged with attempted second-degree murder and aggravated assault. He pleaded not guilty on both counts on Friday. He initially declined to appear at his scheduled arraignment in St. Johnsbury Thursday, and was subsequently summoned to appear the following day.

Judge Thomas Devine ordered Cotto held without bail.

Casey Jean Squires, 21, of Sheffield pleaded not guilty to being an accessory after the fact. Squires’ attorney, Jill Jordan, entered a not guilty plea on Squires’ behalf at her arraignment Thursday in Caledonia County Court. Police said Squires drove Cotto away from the shooting and allowed him to stay at a Lyndon home where she was living, and where the pair was arrested the following day.

Devine ordered Squires held for lack of $7,500 bail and set conditions she must follow if she posts bail.

Nathan Smires, 36, of Barnet suffered “life-threatening injuries” when he was shot in the neck, police said. He was taken first to Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury and later transferred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. 

The shooting was reported shortly before 10:30 p.m. Tuesday outside the Maplefields on Route 2, police said. The shooting came after a dispute over drugs, according to police.

Detective Sgt. Drew Cota of the Vermont State Police, who responded to the shooting, wrote in an affidavit that surveillance camera footage of the parking lot showed two vehicles side by side, with a man getting out the passenger’s side of one car and extending an object into the driver’s side window of the other vehicle. That was followed by what appeared to be “the flash of a firearm” before the man returned to the passenger side of his vehicle, Cota wrote.

Two witnesses, who were with Smires shortly before the shooting, identified the shooter as Cotto, according to the affidavit. Prior to his arrest, Cotto had sold crack cocaine, as well as opiates such as heroin and fentanyl, to various individuals, according to several statements included in the affidavit. 

Cotto and Squires had met Smires the night before the shooting, when they gave Smires a ride and Smires gave them a bag of heroin, Squires told police, according to the affidavit. Smires asked them to give him a bag later on to replace the one he’d given them. Smires also discussed buying crack cocaine when they would meet the following night, according to the affidavit. 

However, Squires said Cotto became frustrated when Smires failed to show up for several agreed-upon meetings. When they met up at a park-and-ride, Cotto and Squires were arguing with Smires about being shorted for drugs the previous night, Squires told police. The argument continued at the nearby Maplefields, where Cotto pulled the gun, according to police.

According to the affidavit, Squires told police that Cotto ordered her to drive him away from the shooting, and that she had tried to get Cotto to let her out of the car, but he refused.

After tracking cellphone data, Vermont State Police and St. Johnsbury police obtained a search warrant for a home on Mathewson Hill Road in Lyndon, and said Cotto and Squires were trying to flee when they arrived.

Inside the house, police said, they found clothes matching the description of what Cotto was wearing during the shooting, a gun matching the description of the weapon used in the shooting, and two bundles of what they suspect is heroin.

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Ella Ruehsen

About Ella

Ella is a student at the University of Vermont, where she is majoring in environmental studies and was recently elected editor in chief of the Vermont Cynic, the school’s independent student newspaper. She previously was a reporter and news editor at the Cynic and interned last summer at the Burlington Free Press.

Email: [email protected]

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