Suspect denies sudden attack on passenger in same car
By ERIC FRANCIS
CORRESPONDENT | February 06,2013
ERIC FRANCIS PHOTO
William “Tree” Manson of Springfield was ordered held for lack of $25,000 bail Monday after he allegedly beat a man in a downtown parking lot and stole his backpack.
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A Springfield resident has been charged with beating a man in a Factory Street public parking lot a week ago and stealing his backpack which contained a large knife.
William “Tree” Manson, 24, was arrested over the weekend following an investigation into an attack Jan. 29 which the victim, Geoffrey Connolly, 21, of Windsor, told police occurred just before 5 p.m. that afternoon.
On Monday, Manson, a painter who has lived in Vermont since 2008 and has a 1-year-old son in Springfield, pleaded innocent to a felony count of assault and robbery with injury resulting. If convicted, the charge carries a mandatory one-year minimum and up to a 20-year maximum sentence. Manson was ordered held for lack of $25,000 bail.
During Manson’s arraignment, Windsor County Deputy State’s Attorney David Cahill told Judge Robert Gerety that the irony of the alleged attack was that when it occurred Manson was supposed to be in court in White River Junction for a scheduled hearing on a previous criminal case.
“The court issued an arrest warrant for his nonappearance on that day,” Cahill pointed out, adding, “I think it’s quite striking that Mr. Manson had a court obligation and on that same day allegedly committed a crime instead of coming here.”
Connolly told police that he barely knew “Tree,” but ended up riding from Windsor to Springfield in a car with him because he had arranged to “hang out” with Kelsey Nott, 18, of Hartland and when she arrived to pick him up Manson was in the car with her.
Connolly wrote in a sworn statement that after the trio arrived in Springfield they had parked in front of a small convenience store where he’d gotten his wallet out to “give ‘Tree’ a dollar to go in the store” when Manson suddenly pulled him out of the car and began choking and punching him in the face, neck, chest and groin, taking his wallet, phone and backpack during the attack.
Connelly said the only thing of value inside the backpack was a SOG Knife that he had just paid a hundred dollars to purchase three days beforehand.
Connolly told police that he was not very familiar with Springfield and immediately after the alleged attack he got back into the car with Nott only to have her meet up with Manson a short time later on Mineral Street.
“(Connolly) said he asked ‘What the hell was all that about?’ and said that ‘Tree’ had a weird smile on his face and told him to get back in the car,” Officer Jeremy Fitzgibbons wrote in an affidavit filed with the court. Connolly refused and, after the other two individuals left on foot, he called police, the affidavit said.
Fitzgibbons said that it was a couple of days before police caught up with Nott and interviewed her at the Windsor Police Station where he said she gave a completely different version of events, insisting that she did not know Manson and claiming that she and Connolly were the only people in the car when they traveled to Springfield on the afternoon of the alleged assault. Fitzgibbons said that Nott appeared nervous and “began to fidget in her chair” when he reminded her that Manson had been arrested after being pulled over when he was driving her car back in November and that she had been a passenger in the vehicle at that time.
The next day, Fitzgibbons interviewed Manson at the Springfield jail after he was arrested on the outstanding failure-to-appear warrant over the weekend. He wrote that Manson claimed not to have seen Nott for months and said he did not know Connolly at all and may have been in Charlestown, N.H., on the day the alleged assault took place.