Man accused of shooting self faces more than 100 new charges
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | March 22,2013
BENNINGTON — A Manchester man, who has been accused of shooting himself Dec. 31 and then reporting that he was the victim of a drive-by shooting, was charged Thursday with two felonies and 105 misdemeanor counts of violating his conditions of release from custody.
Donald J. Ely-Gardner, 27, of Manchester, was also found to be competent to stand trial on a growing list of criminal charges. Jeffrey Rubin, who represents Ely-Gardner, had asked for a competency evaluation in February.
On Thursday, Ely-Gardner was arraigned in Bennington criminal court on felony counts of embezzlement and theft of service, two misdemeanor charges of petty larceny and 105 misdemeanor charges for violation of conditions of release. Ely-Gardner pleaded innocent to all the charges.
After a friend of Ely-Gardner’s reported that he had suffered a gunshot wound Dec. 31, he was taken to the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington and then to Albany Medical Center in New York for treatment.
In an affidavit, Officer Craig Watrous Sr., of the Manchester Police Department, said he was dispatched to Hand Chevrolet on Feb. 5 to meet with an employee. The employee said the business was missing two cellular phones.
Watrous said Hand Motors received a bill for two cell phones, which prompted an investigation. What the employee learned was that one cell phone box was empty and the other had a hollow cell phone model inside.
Because the cell phones were not expected to be in use and had no “calling plan” connected to them, the calls made on them were charged at a premium rate. The Hand employee said he believed Ely-Gardner, who was employed at Hand Motor to repair cell phones, may have taken the phones because of his access to them.
Together, the phones were valued at about $900.
Watrous said he looked at the cell phone bills and found that the calls were being made from Albany, N.Y., at the time Ely-Gardner was a patient in the hospital there.
According to the affidavit, nine were made to the Manchester Police Department about the case involving the shooting, 54 were made to Ely-Gardner’s mother, and 105 calls were made between Jan. 1 and Jan. 10 to a woman with whom Ely-Gardner was not allowed to have contact with by court order.
The cost of the calls came to more than $2,118.
Watrous said Ely-Gardner’s mother told him Feb. 8 that the phones were in a bag her son had given to her while he was at the hospital.
In a separate affidavit, Robert Kalinowski, an investigator for the Bennington County State’s Attorney’s Office, said he spoke Feb. 27 with the woman who was called 105 times. He said she admitted the calls were from Ely-Gardner and that she knew he was not supposed to contact her but she said she wanted to talk to him and that he told her the judge’s order “may not apply across state lines.”
There are several felony charges pending against Ely-Gardner including violation of an abuse prevention order, which involves the woman he’s accused of calling, and two felony counts of first-degree aggravated domestic assault and two felony charges of second-degree aggravated domestic assault, which involve a different woman.
He was ordered held without bail in February.