Crime and Justice

3 charged in Springfield kidnapping; possible link to Bennington murder

From left: Zachary Russell, Jesse LaFlam Sr. and Christopher Merritt, charged with kidnapping, assault and other offenses in Springfield. Photo via Vermont State Police

Updated at 5:35 p.m.

A man found shot to death in Bennington on Wednesday was wanted as one of four people who allegedly kidnapped a Springfield man days earlier and held him at gunpoint in an apparent dispute over drugs, according to court documents released Friday.

The other three people — Jesse LaFlam Sr., 49, and Christopher Merritt, 40, both of Springfield, and Zachary Russell, 25, of Bennington — appeared in court Friday on felony charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, burglary into an occupied dwelling, and aiding in the commission of assault and robbery with a weapon.

The men also were charged with the misdemeanor offense of interference with access to emergency services.  

LaFlam and Merritt each pleaded not guilty during remote appearances in Windham County Superior criminal court. The court ordered them held without bail while awaiting trial.

Russell, who appeared in Windsor County criminal court, chose to delay entering his pleas for 24 hours since he could not obtain an attorney. He is also being held without bail while waiting to be arraigned next week.

The other alleged conspirator, Patrick Mullinnex, 38, of Springfield, was found fatally shot in a Bennington apartment on Wednesday. Bennington police, who are investigating the killing, said he was shot several times in the chest.

The suspected shooter, Raul Cardona, 28, of Springfield, Massachusetts, is being sought by authorities. 

It was unclear as of Friday whether there was a connection between Mullinnex’s killing and the kidnapping case. Vermont State Police referred questions to Bennington police, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Friday afternoon.

According to Vermont State Police’s statement of probable cause for the charges, the four accused men entered a home on Stanley Road in Springfield in the wee hours of Saturday. The group restrained at gunpoint and assaulted the homeowner, Travis Osmer, as well as Ashley Osmer, three young children, and visitors Dustine Lombard, Brandi Vilkauskas and Michael Myers, the statement shows. All the people in the Osmer residence live in Springfield.

Investigators said LaFlam, Merritt, Russell and Mullinnex removed Myers from the home by threat of force and robbed him of cash. They then restrained him for some time at a location on Cummings Road in Chester, police said. 

Myers reportedly escaped, with minor injuries. Travis Osmer also had minor injuries. No one else was injured.

Myers, 30, told police that the men who abducted him had also asked for drugs but that he had stopped dealing drugs about two weeks earlier, reads the police statement written by Detective Trooper Jason Lengfellner. Myers reportedly said he’d sold “a multitude of illegal narcotics.”

He also told investigators that LaFlam and Mullinnex sold heroin, bath salts, cocaine, meth and pot, according to the document.

Lengfellner wrote that it was “Russell’s initiation to kill Myers” once the kidnapping and burglary was over. But, Russell told police, “it broke his heart when he saw Myers tied to the bed, so he decided to not go along with the plan.”

Court documents show LaFlam has eight previous felony convictions in Windsor County, Russell has six in Bennington County and Merritt has three in Windsor County. 

Their criminal histories tag them as “habitual offenders,” which would enhance their potential sentences in new felony convictions to up to life in prison. Otherwise the charges carry penalties ranging from five years to life imprisonment.  

LaFlam and Merritt are being held at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, and Russell is being held at Marble Valley Correctional Facility in Rutland.

The kidnapping case is being investigated by Vermont State Police, with assistance from the Springfield Police Department, Vermont Probation and Parole, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Patrick Mullinnex’s last name.

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Tiffany Tan

About Tiffany

Tiffany Tan is VTDigger's Southern Vermont reporter. Before joining VTDigger, she covered cops and courts for the Bennington Banner from 2018 to 2021. Prior to that, Tiffany worked for the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota and spent more than 10 years working for newspapers and television stations in Manila, Singapore and Beijing.

Email: [email protected]

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