ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) — Two brothers suspected along with their cousin of abducting and killing a 78-year-old woman in a botched robbery at her home and then dumping her body in a ravine in 2010 pleaded not guilty on Monday to murder and other charges.
Half-brothers Richard Fletcher and Keith Baird entered the pleas in state Superior Court while relatives of the victim, Pat O'Hagan, and police investigators looked on. Fletcher and Baird are already in state custody for unrelated convictions.
Fletcher and Baird were charged Friday. An arrest warrant also was issued Friday for their cousin Michael Norrie, who was being held in a federal prison in Pennsylvania on unrelated charges and couldn't be reached for comment. There was no word on when Norrie might appear in Vermont to answer the charges in the killing of O'Hagan, a grandmother of nine who was widowed and lived alone.
In chilling detail, police affidavits said that after O'Hagan was shot in the back of the head with a stolen pistol on Sept. 10, 2010, her body was sexually assaulted by one of the suspects and then was dumped.
After the brief hearing Monday, two of O'Hagan's sons said the charges were a first step on the road to justice.
"This action is the beginning of bringing peace and comfort back to the Northeast Kingdom," said Shawn O'Hagan, of Manchester, N.H. "It's been a long three and a half years."
Mark O'Hagan, of Bolton, Mass., said the family is continuing to move ahead and has been heartened by the support of the community.
"It's far enough away now we're back to seeing our mom as our mom, our grandmom, our kids' grandmother, and that's a change," he said.
Pat O'Hagan had lived in Sheffield, where the three suspects also lived. Her body was found by a hunter on Oct. 3, 2010, about 10 miles away in Wheelock.
Police affidavits said investigators were first told on Oct. 14, 2010, that Fletcher, Baird and Norrie were involved in O'Hagan's killing:
In interviews with police, Norrie said he, Fletcher and Baird had used crystal meth and wanted more. Norrie said he and Fletcher went to O'Hagan's home, where Fletcher had worked, after Fletcher said "she had pills." Baird denied being involved in the killing of O'Hagan, but a series of witness statements said he was at O'Hagan's home the night she was killed and helped dispose of her body.
The attorneys for Fletcher and Baird made no public comment after the hearing.