Allen Draper pleaded guilty Wednesday to the murder of Crepault Hill resident Tim Persons last year in exchange for a sentence of 27 years to life in prison.
Draper, 31, pleaded guilty to a first degree murder charge as well as a felony charge of assault and robbery and a misdemeanor charge of providing false information to a police officer as part of the plea agreement negotiated by Caledonia County State’s Attorney Lisa Warren and Draper’s defense attorney Rob Sussman of Burlington.
Draper also agreed to give-up his right to appeal and the right to challenge his confession at sentencing.
Caledonia Superior Court
“My reading of the affidavit would tell me that without the confession the state’s case would be substantially impaired,” said Judge Robert Bent to Warren.
“Yes, that’s a fair statement,” responded Warren.
Bent ordered a pre-sentencing investigation to be conducted before Draper’s sentencing hearing which will be scheduled for a later date. The judge can reject the plea agreement at sentencing. If that were to happen, Draper would be allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas.
“If I get through the pre-sentence investigation and hear the facts involved it is possible I could say ‘this is not sufficient,’” said Judge Bent. “The court does, though, have great respect for the attorneys negotiations.”
Draper told police that he had gone to Persons’ home at 319 Crepeault Hill on the night of May 15, 2018, demanding money to buy drugs and that when Persons refused Draper hit Persons in the head with a radiator pipe, searched his pockets for money and then used burning rags to set Persons home on fire. The house burned to the ground and the state medical examiner later ruled Persons’ cause of death to be from blunt force trauma to the head and smoke inhalation.
But in May, Sussman told the court he suspected Draper’s confession may have been coerced by investigators and that he planned to challenge it at trial and had already arranged for an expert on “involuntary confession” to testify for the defense.
But after Warren listed the facts of the case in open court Wednesday Draper did not deny them even when given the chance to do so by the judge.
“Do you agree with those facts, Mr. Draper?” asked Judge Bent.
“Yes,” responded Draper
“And how to you plead?”
“And are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?”
“Yes,” responded Draper.
Sussman had said he also planned to bring in an expert to rebut the testimony of Vermont Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Steven Shapiro.
As part of the plea agreement the state agreed to dismiss four other charges including an additional count of 1st degree murder for the killing, arson and two counts of providing false information to police officers during the investigation into the Persons homicide.
Police said Persons knew Draper from volunteer work he did at the Covered Bridge Therapeutic Communities half-way house at 184 Pearl St. in St. Johnsbury where Draper was living. Persons was actively involved at Covered Bridge as a mentor and an organizer of community service projects.
According to court documents, Draper admitted to killing Persons after riding his bicycle several miles through the night from the Covered Bridge to Persons’ house while suffering from cocaine withdrawal.
Draper was on furlough serving a prison sentence at Covered Bridge when the alleged murder occurred.