New burglary charges brought against Addison man

MIDDLEBURY — The man accused in a string of burglaries committed in Addison County earlier this year faced additional charges this past Wednesday in Vermont Superior Court’s Criminal Division in Middlebury — and was again denied bail.
According to court documents, Raymond Ritchie, 37, of Addison was arraigned Sept. 25 for four more felony counts of burglary, each of which carry a potential life sentence because of his seven prior felony convictions, one from 2005 and six from 2001.
Ritchie pleaded innocent to the new charges, stemming from two alleged Weybridge burglaries on July 15 and two in Shoreham on July 24, and was returned to the Marble Valley Correctional Center in Rutland.
These charges were added to the charges upon which Ritchie had previously pleaded innocent in August, including three counts of unlawful trespass and cultivation of marijuana. Ritchie’s live-in girlfriend, Nicole Burgos, 29, of Addison also faces the cultivation charge.
Wednesday’s arraignment followed a two-hour weight of evidence hearing held that morning at which Judge Robert Mello denied Ritchie’s request to be allowed bail. In August, Judge Helen Toor ruled that Ritchie be held without bail because of the strength of evidence against him, including that he was linked to at least 52 burglaries.
Sidebar: Break-in victims invited to view items recovered by police
According to court workers and some of the 20 Addison residents who attended Wednesday’s weight of evidence hearing, evidence presented by Addison County State’s Attorney David Fenster included a recording of a conversation between Ritchie and Burgos while Ritchie was at the correctional center.
According to witnesses, when Ritchie realized the recording would be played, he became upset, stood up and asked to be removed from the courtroom.
He was escorted back into the courtroom after 10 or 15 minutes, and the courtroom listened to a recording in which Ritchie apparently told Burgos that they could have fled if she had not put up an Addison home as collateral while raising bail before Toor ordered him held without bail.
The prosecution also presented testimony from two Vermont State Police troopers and noted, witnesses said, five prior instances when Ritchie had failed to appear for court dates, two violation-of-probation offenses, the seriousness of the charges filed against him, and the sheer number of alleged crimes.
The defense argued, they said, that he had received offers of a part-time job and a place to stay in Milton and agreed to receive daily supervision and wear a global positioning monitor.
Ritchie’s court-appointed lawyer, James Gratton, reportedly did not rely on the eight-page handwritten brief that Ritchie had prepared for a Sept. 11 bail review hearing. Mello ruled that hearing out of order, essentially because there was no bail to review, and instead Wednesday’s weight of evidence hearing looked at the question of bail for Ritchie.  
Witnesses said Mello summarized each side’s case before ruling the preponderance of evidence required him to order Ritchie be held without bail until trial.
Fenster said VSP witnesses did bring up “some of the new information we had gotten” that led to the new charges Ritchie faced after the weight of evidence hearing. In all, he said his office was ready to make its case.
“The state was prepared to meet its proofs,” Fenster said.
Addison residents were both happy and reassured to learn Ritchie would not walk free.
“I think that everyone was relieved and really felt that that’s where he belongs at this point, not out free,” said Michele Kelly, whose home Ritchie allegedly burglarized. “Everyone was hoping for that outcome.”
Kelly and others, who preferred not to speak publicly, said they thought the recording was damning evidence.
“It was evident that if she wasn’t going to lose the house they might take off,” Kelly said.
VSP also issued a press release after the court date. It stated that the 52 victims who have identified property allegedly found at Ritchie’s Addison home have been able to identify and reclaim property valued at $10,261. That stolen property was seized when police searched Ritchie’s Addison home this past summer.
According to court documents, some of the property identified was stolen as long ago as 2010, but most was stolen in 2013. According to those documents, Ritchie was seen near the scene of many of the break-ins, and when confronted told residents he was looking for places to go rabbit hunting with his dog. One homeowner, who was home sick in bed, allegedly found Ritchie well inside his home and was told the same story.
According to the state’s attorney’s office, the next step in Ritchie’s legal case is a status conference to be held at the courthouse in Middlebury at 9 a.m. on Oct. 28. That conference will deal with all of the cases, according to the office.
Ritchie and Burgos were originally arrested on July 31. She was cited with cultivation of marijuana and was released, while Ritchie was jailed in the Marble Valley Correctional Center, where he has remained since.
Addison residents have followed the case carefully, attended court dates, lobbied officials to push for Ritchie’s continued incarceration, lobbied lawmakers for stiffer penalties for habitual lawbreakers, and founded a Neighborhood Watch to help protect their homes and businesses.
They remain concerned that Ritchie will get off more lightly than they would like, even though he faces life sentences on many of the counts against him.
“None of us know what these life crimes mean,” said Kelly. “Do they really mean life in prison?”
Kelly said Addison’s residents believe Ritchie has shown no remorse.
“I don’t see any sense in the man that he understands what he did was wrong,” she said.
Residents are also resigned to the fact that they probably will never recover all or most of their missing possessions, but hope at least some information can be pried loose from Ritchie. 
“One of the things I would really like to get out of him was where he was fencing this stuff,” Kelly said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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