Prosecutors: knifepoint robberies carried out to buy heroin
By Brent Curtis
staff writer | January 24,2014
A vigilant resident and a heightened police presence contributed to the arrest of a man and a woman who city police say are responsible for almost all of the recent knifepoint robberies in Rutland.
Five convenience stores in Rutland and one in Wallingford have been held up since Jan. 4 by a lone man wielding a small silver blade. While video cameras at all of the stores captured images of the suspect, the man covered his head with a hood and his face with a gray scarf making identification impossible.
But within minutes of the latest knifepoint robbery on Granger Street in the city Wednesday night, police say they found the stickup man and his getaway driver thanks in part to a resident on Plain Street who told police he saw a silver Jeep Liberty parked near the Granger Street Market & Deli at the time it was robbed.
Twenty minutes after the robbery was reported at 8:42 p.m., police found a vehicle matching that description parked outside 24½ Cottage St. with two people inside.
Those two people were Arabella Babcock, 21, and Patrick Blodgett, 26, who later told police they were parked on Cottage Street because they were using heroin they had just purchased.
The drugs were paid for, police say, with $117 they allegedly stole from the market on Granger Street.
“This was a drug-fueled crime spree,” Assistant Attorney General Robert Menzel said in Rutland criminal court Thursday.
Blodgett and Babcock remain in jail on $150,000 bail each after they pleaded innocent to a total of nine felony charges. Blodgett pleaded innocent to five felony counts of assault and robbery that carry a potential 90-year prison term while Babcock pleaded innocent to four counts of assault and robbery. While Babcock was described as a lifelong Rutland resident during the hearing, prosecutors said Blodgett has a residence in East Barre and had only recently been spending time in Rutland.
It wasn’t Blodgett’s first appearance in the county’s criminal courtroom this month.
On Jan. 8, three days after the second robbery, he appeared in court on an arrest warrant related to a pending criminal charge of forgery in Chittenden County. He was released after that hearing.
Police said Thursday that they did not suspect Babcock or Blodgett in a rash of burglaries carried out this month in the Barre area.
The pair allegedly admitted to police that they were responsible for robberies carried out in Rutland and Wallingford on Jan. 4, 5, 11, 19, 20 and Wednesday night.
In each of the robberies, Blodgett was the alleged knifeman while Babcock drove either the Jeep Liberty or another Jeep in all but one of the robberies. The only robbery that Blodgett said he committed alone was at the Beer King on Crescent Street on Sunday.
None of the clerks, who were alone when their stores were robbed, were injured in the holdups, but Rutland Police Chief James Baker said tensions were running high for convenience store owners and employees while the robbery spree lasted.
“The first thing we did this morning was go around to notify all the stores that we made an arrest,” Baker said outside the courtroom Thursday.
In addition to admissions the couple allegedly made during interviews with investigators, police say they found evidence in their vehicle, including a hooded sweatshirt, scarf and a knife found on Blodgett that looked like the blade used in the robberies.
But the oddest piece of evidence may have been a single glove found in the vehicle. The glove looked like the lone glove worn on the left hand of the knifeman during the robberies.
In an affidavit filed with the court, Rutland Police Detective David LaChance said he asked Blodgett why he only wore a single glove during the robberies and was told “because that was all he had.”
Blodgett also allegedly told police that when he and Babcock began planning the robberies earlier this month, it “at first started out to be for fun” before becoming a means to buy drugs.