Farm worker charged with Whiting assault
MIDDLEBURY — A farmworker from Mexico on Monday pleaded innocent in Addison Superior Court’s Criminal Division to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and burglary, charges stemming from a June 5 incident at a Whiting mobile home.
Ricardo Romero-DeLaCruz, 20, who according to Vermont State Police has a Mexican consulate ID (although he said he was in the U.S. illegally), was lodged at the Marble Valley Correctional Center for lack of $25,000 bail after entering his pleas in court. He faces 25 years in jail and a $1,000 fine for the burglary charge and five years and a $5,000 fine for the aggravated assault.
According to an affidavit filed by VSP, after 11 p.m. on the night of on June 5 Romero-DeLaCruz entered a trailer occupied by Efrain Jimenez DeLaCruz, 30, who police described as “a distant relative.” WCAX-TV reported that Jimenez DeLaCruz works on the M and L farm in Whiting.
VSP allege that Romero-DeLaCruz started striking the sleeping Jimenez DeLaCruz with either a golf club (the victim’s account) or a pipe (according to the assailant’s statement), and that the assailant also attacked the victim with a knife.
Porter Hospital emergency room personnel first alerted VSP about the assault at about 1:15 a.m. on June 6, when they called to report they were treating the victim. Police reported they discovered “knife cuts to (the victim’s) left side and blunt trauma injuries to his back and ribs” when they interviewed him.
Jimenez DeLaCruz told police that he was asleep in his bed in the Whiting trailer when Romero-DeLaCruz began “hitting him repeatedly in the head and body” with what the victim believed was a golf club. He said he was able to get on top of his assailant before he was struck from behind by “an unknown male wielding a pipe.”
The victim said he was fighting with both assailants when Romero-DeLaCruz grabbed a pocketknife and began slashing him. Jimenez DeLaCruz stated he was eventually able to “force both men out of the trailer” and call for help.
According to the VSP affidavit, Romero-DeLaCruz’s current employer, Mark Foster of Middlebury’s Foster Brothers farm, brought him to VSP on June 8 to turn himself in. VSP then interviewed Romero-DeLaCruz, who allegedly told police “he was not in the United States legally” and that he attacked the victim because Jimenez DeLaCruz and the victim’s nephew, Ricardo Jimenez DeLaCruz, had assaulted him in April in Bridport.
According to the affidavit, Romero-DeLaCruz said the bad blood among the men extended back to their homes: It read, “He further advised this altercation resulted from a fight which had occurred in Mexico between two other family members.”
Efrain Jimenez DeLaCruz also told police that he and his nephew had confronted Romero-DeLaCruz in April, although their accounts differ. According to Jimenez DeLaCruz, he and his nephew “knocked down Romero-DeLaCruz twice and left before the situation escalated.”
According to Romero-DeLaCruz, Jimenez DeLaCruz in April came with two men, one of them his nephew, and hit him in the back several times with the flat blade of a machete, punching him and kicking him while he was on the floor.
Romero-DeLaCruz provided cellphone pictures to VSP of injuries he said he suffered during the attack, and allegedly told them he had committed the June 5 assault “for justice and … for revenge” for the April assault.
Romero-DeLaCruz’s account of the knife part of the June assault differed from the victim’s: Romero-DeLaCruz said the victim picked it up first and attacked him with it, and that he was able to wrestle the weapon away from Jimenez DeLaCruz and use it to protect himself.
According to a VSP press release, they are still actively seeking the second assailant involved in the June 5 assault in the Whiting trailer.
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