Two people wanted in connection with a bizarre Franklin County homicide were arrested after leaving a Shelburne Road motel early Tuesday, officials said.
Shelburne police played a role in the capture during a week when they and other area law enforcement officers have been on alert with two homicide cases under investigation.
Since last Thursday, police have been seeking a suspect wanted in connection with the shooting death of a South Burlington woman a week ago. As of press time, that individual was still at large.
In the Tuesday case on Shelburne Road, police pulled over a car containing three people after they left the North Star Motel, police said. The driver was not wanted, but there were arrest warrants for the two passengers, police said.
Overnight Monday, a South Burlington Police detective was helping with the Franklin County case by spot-checking parking lots for vehicles that might have been associated with the two suspects.
The plainclothes detective in an unmarked car checked the North Star Motel just south of the South Burlington-Shelburne line on U.S. 7, officials said. The detective spotted a car possibly connected at about 1 a.m. and called in Shelburne police to help with surveillance.
State police and the FBI soon arrived to assist, but the trio left the hotel room, got into the vehicle, and drove off. Investigators followed and stopped the car at about 2 a.m. on U.S. 7 near the Sherwin Williams paint store, north of the Shelburne town line, state police said, adding that the suspects offered no resistance.
Shelburne police officers returned to the hotel to keep watch on the rented room until investigators were able to obtain a search warrant from a judge.
Shelburne Police Chief Aaron Noble said later it is standard procedure for town police to respond to backup requests from other law enforcement agencies for a wide range of calls. He said Shelburne police were aware of the Franklin County homicide and also have been on alert ,looking for the suspect in a second homicide reported in South Burlington late last week.
In the Franklin County case, Erika Guttilla, 31, of Highgate was held without bail on charges of first-degree murder and obstruction of justice, Vermont State Police said. She was expected in court in St. Albans on Wednesday.
Corey Cassani, 28, of Highgate was charged with being an accessory after a murder, obstruction of justice, and unauthorized removal of a body, state police said. He pleaded not guilty to both charges on Tuesday.
On Sunday, Carmen Guttilla, 60, of Highgate was charged with aiding in the commission of a felony — murder, police said. She pleaded not guilty at her arraignment in Burlington.
Police said they believe her daughter Erika fired the fatal shot into the head of Troy Ford, 35, of 161 Charles Circle in Highgate.
Investigators believe that Ford was shot in November at the Guttilla residence, but a few months later the body was moved because Erika began telling people about the shooting, state police said. The body was found nearby by two men walking their dogs, state police said.
Ford, who was from Brooklyn, provided drugs to family members and was both physically and sexually abusive, court records show. The family could not get him to leave. The mother and daughter agreed he had to be killed and the daughter shot him, police said.
South Burlington homicide
The arrests Tuesday came one day after South Burlington police briefed the news media and public about a suspect and the vehicle in which investigators believe he fled from a South Burlington killing on May 3.
Leroy A. Headley, 36, of South Burlington was last known to be driving a blue 2017 Nissan Pathfinder with Vermont license plates HBR 281, according to South Burlington police.
Headley is wanted on a charge of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Anako “Anette” Lumumba, 33, of South Burlington at her home last Thursday, police said.
Lumumba, a licensed practical nurse, was shot once in the head, the death certificate said.
Police said Lumumba and Headley shared a duplex at 10 Southview Drive, which is off Hinesburg Road. The paperwork for the murder charge also lists 180 North St. in Burlington as Headley’s home address.
South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple said at a news conference Monday that Headley’s whereabouts were unknown, but he urged area residents to be vigilant and report any possible sightings of the vehicle or Headley to police immediately.
The chief said that, with spring arriving and hikers and hunters fanning out into the fields and forests, somebody may see something connected to the case. Whipple said Headley could still be in this area, or have could fled elsewhere.
Rick Goldsborough of South Burlington, the lawyer who represents Headley in a pending case involving sexual assault on a minor, told the Shelburne News that he has not heard from his client but has been in touch with prosecutors. He indicated that if Headley contacted him, he would urge his client to surrender peacefully.
Police said Headley withdrew $5,000 from a Vermont Federal Credit Union branch near Williston Road on Thursday afternoon, before they believe the shooting happened.
Investigators learned about the homicide from police in Falmouth, Mass. South Burlington Detective Chris Bataille said the suspect’s brother, Onel Headley, walked into the Falmouth police station on Thursday to report his brother had told him about the shooting. South Burlington police said they received a call from Falmouth police with that information at about 6:25 p.m. Thursday.
Sgt. Jon Namdar and Officer Dale Crispin arrived at the Southview Drive address at about 6:30 p.m. and found a woman lying in a pool of blood, Bataille wrote in court papers.
Within minutes of that discovery, Bataille said, a 911 call came in from a man, identifying himself as Headley and reporting he had shot his girlfriend at the Southview Drive address. “I shoot my girlfriend. I think she die,” a transcript of the 911 call said, according to court papers.
Bataille said officials used GPS to determine that the 911 call was made from Moretown, Vt., about 40 miles southeast of South Burlington.
Police then conferred with a Burlington police detective, who has had extensive interaction with Headley, and the officer recognized the voice as the suspect, Bataille said.
In the affidavit filed with state court, police say that, in December, Headley allegedly sent a threatening text message to Lumumba that said: “The next time you’re going to see how I fight with you, you’re going to see real (expletive) fight if you can lived to tell the story. [sic]”
The yard around the Southview Drive home contained a variety of children’s toys last week. Chief Whipple said Lumumba had several children who were with another family member at the time of the shooting. He was not clear on exactly how many children or their ages.
Police emphasized that, although they believe this crime was a targeted act and although Headley should be presumed to be armed and dangerous, they do not believe there is any imminent danger to the community.
Still, police ask that anyone who sees Headley or his car call 922 immediately. Anyone with non-urgent information can call the South Burlington Police Department Tip Line at 598-3528.