Allen Draper called Tim Persons his friend.
But, according to state police, he went to Persons’ house in the middle of the night, bashed his head with a radiator pipe then burned him while he was still alive. All because Persons refused Draper’s demand for money to buy cocaine.
The ensuing fire destroyed Persons’ home at 319 Crepeault Hill Road on the night of May 15, but according to a report filed by Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Mark Potter, investigators were told by Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Steven Shapiro that Persons’ injuries - including a “significant subdural hemorrhage” near his left temple and a “defect” on the back of his skull - occurred before the fire began.
“Moreover, Dr. Shapiro told me that he found sooting within the trachea which, he noted, is indicative of the victim breathing at the time of the fire,” wrote Potter in his report.
Police say Draper has admitted to killing Persons after riding his bicycle several miles through the night from the Pearl Street half-way house where he was living to Persons’ house while in the depths of “cocaine withdrawal.”
Draper has now been charged with felony charges of 1st degree murder, arson, assault and robbery with injury and three misdemeanor charges of providing false information to a police officer by trying to falsely implicate three other men in the crime, including his cousin.
At Draper’s arraignment on the charges in Caledonia Superior Court Tuesday in St. Johnsbury, State’s Attorney Lisa Warren asked Judge Scot Kline to hold Draper without bail.
Kline granted the request but Draper had already been returned to prison over the weekend by the Vermont Department of Probation and Parole for an unspecified furlough violation.
Warren has also charged Draper as a habitual offender which could trigger enhanced penalties of up to life in prison due to his prior criminal record. The proceedings were witnessed by a gathering of Persons’ friends and family members who watched from the back row of the gallery.
Draper is disabled with a condition that causes him to walk in an irregular manner but authorities say that while he sometimes uses crutches he doesn’t require them to move from place to place or for other activities such as riding a bike.
Police said Persons knew Draper from volunteer work he did at Covered Bridge Therapeutic Communities half-way house at 184 Pearl St. in St. Johnsbury.
Covered Bridge is a faith-based residential therapeutic community for men with a history of substance abuse where Persons’ was actively involved as a mentor and an organizer of community service projects performed by the residents – many of whom have spent time in prisons or other institutions. Persons, who worked as a local contractor, was known to drive Covered Bridge residents to church and back on Sundays. Covered Bridge officials told police the last time they saw Persons was on Sunday May, 13.
Persons’ mini van was not at his house when the fire broke out but later turned-up in the Covered Bridge driveway, which allowed investigators to make a connection between Persons and the Covered Bridge community.
Police said Draper eventually confessed to the killing during an interview on Saturday with VSP Detective Sgt.Michael Notte and Detective Tpr. Marie Beland but not before repeatedly trying to implicate his cousin identified by police as Justin Couture (Vantour) and Couture’s friend Eugine Menard - neither of whom lived at Covered Bridge. Draper told police how he had suggested Couture and Menard approach Persons about acquiring scrap metal he had so they could sell it.
“He mentioned his friend, Tim Persons, had scrap metal on his property and that Couture should go up and see if Persons would be willing to let them have it,” wrote Potter.
But Draper said Persons refused to give them the metal then gave police detailed descriptions of Couture and Menard killing Persons for revenge.
Police went so far as to execute search warrants last week at the homes of Couture and Menard based on Draper’s statements.
However, police found no evidence to connect Couture and Menard to the crime. Police said Draper also tried to implicate his former Covered Bridge housemate identified as Jacob Buckles as an accessory to the crime but eventually admitted Buckles was not involved.
Then, according to Potter’s report, Draper confessed to riding his bicycle 5.7 miles to Persons’ home on the night of the crime in search of money to buy cocaine from Buckles.
Draper told police he was suffering from cocaine withdrawals that night and was desperate for money.
“Draper ultimately advised he left covered Bridge Therapeutic Community at approximately 2200 hours (10 p.m.) and rode his bicycle from 184 Pearl Street to Persons’ residence. He advised he traveled down Federal Street, took a right on Railroad Street and got onto Interstate 91 northbound,” wrote Potter in his report. “He described getting off Exit 21 and traveling on US Route 2 to Crepeault Hill Road.”
Draper told police that when he arrived at the residence Persons was in the garage and that when he entered the garage Draper grabbed “an old radiator pipe” that was there but kept the pipe down at his side to hide it from Persons’ view.
“He advised he asked Persons if he could borrow some money but Persons refused,” wrote Potter in his report. “Draper described lifting the pipe in a more threatening manner and asked again to borrow money from Persons. Again Persons refused to give him any money. In response Draper struck Persons in the back of the head with the pipe as Persons’ was turning away from him.”
Draper told police he then searched Persons’ pockets for cash but only found checks.
“Draper said he then grabbed some torn clothes off the back work bench and doused them in some old fuel that Persons had in his garage,” wrote Potter. “He stated there was a lighter on the work bench as well…Draper described igniting the fuel soaked cloths at opposite ends of the garage.”
According to the affidavit, Draper had planned to use the money he got from Persons to purchase cocaine from Jacob Buckles - who had been evicted from Covered Bridge on May 14 for allegedly stealing from other residents. But the cocaine never arrived.
“Draper said that Buckles ultimately ended up being unsuccessful in obtaining cocaine,” wrote Potter.
According to court documents, Draper has a criminal record that includes five prior felony and 11 misdemeanor convictions including two for assault. He was on furlough at the time of the Persons murder. According to the Vermont Department of Corrections, Draper’s maximum sentence doesn’t expire until March 2026.
In March 2016, Draper, then 28 and living in Hardwick, pleaded guilty in Caledonia Superior Court to two counts of second degree aggravated domestic assault and two counts of violating an abuse prevention order in exchange for a sentence of six months to 10 years, all suspended, except for 30 days to serve, $588 in court surcharges and probation until further order of the court.
Draper had been accused of violently shaking and injuring a three-week-old baby.
The state dismissed a charge of child cruelty – for shaking the baby – as well as a charge of second degree aggravated domestic assault and two counts of violating an abuse prevention order as part of the plea agreement.