ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) — A man told police he poured vodka into the IV feeding tube of his girlfriend's disabled 13-year-old son to settle him down, a dose of alcohol that contributed to his death, according to court documents released Wednesday.
Walter Richters and Melissa Robitille, both 38, were charged with second-degree murder in the Aug. 22 death of Isaac Robitille. They entered not-guilty pleas at their arraignment Wednesday afternoon in Caledonia County and were ordered held without bail. Neither spoke.
"There is great evidence of guilt," said Maria Byford, deputy state's attorney.
Isaac was born with significant medical conditions and disabilities that required the assistance of caretakers for up to 80 hours a week. Feeding tubes supplied him with a strict diet of a pediatric nutritional drink, baby formula, water and vitamins. Court records show that Robitille told police that an insurance foul-up meant she was paying $800 a month for the formulas.
Isaac's health conditions included a brain abnormality listed as the cause of death with alcohol listed as a contributing factor. An autopsy showed his blood alcohol content was .146 percent, about twice the legal limit for adult drivers.
"I feel for her, whatever it was that happened," said Aisha Cameron, who befriended Robitille in a writer's group and described seeing nothing but love for Isaac whenever she visited. "They had a profound connection."
Richters told police in an interview Tuesday that he drank a fifth of vodka and played video games. He said he had asked Robitille if he could give Isaac a little vodka "as he was acting fussy" and she answered that it wouldn't hurt. He said he poured into the IV bag for about two seconds. Richters said he then passed out in a chair, and when he woke up the next morning, Robitille had already found Isaac dead.
Richters said he and the boy bonded when Isaac hugged him during a nap.
Robitille told police that she had drunk three or four beers the same night and initially said she gave Isaac about 3 teaspoons of vodka. She later changed her story to agree with Richters' version of events, police said. She plugged in a baby monitor because she was worried about the vodka, court records show.
When police asked what she would say if Isaac were there, she said: "I'm sorry baby," according to court records.
If convicted, the couple could face a sentence of 20 years to life.
In the town of Hardwick in Vermont's remote Northeast Kingdom, the three-story clapboard home where Isaac died was quiet Wednesday.
Barbara Larabee, who has lived next door for eight months, said she rarely spotted the family outside but saw school buses pick up and drop off Isaac.
"Knowing that he lived there and that he has all those handicaps, you assume the people there want to take care of him to the best of their ability and you hope that's going to happen," Larabee said. "I just don't understand it."
On her website, Robitille describes herself as a clothing and jewelry designer, interior decorator, dog breeder and writer who has self-published two paranormal romance novels. Her husband, Dana Robitille, died in January.
In December 2005, Melissa Robitille and Isaac, who had just turned 5, appeared on WCAX-TV to talk about the gift he was receiving from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a puppy named Tickle, who has since died.
Associated Press writers Kathy McCormack and Holly Ramer in Concord contributed to this report.