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Man accused in attack on two older women

MIDDLEBURY — A Salisbury man with a lengthy criminal record is being held without bail on felony kidnapping and lewd & lascivious charges associated with the alleged assaults of two elderly Middlebury women, one of whom authorities described as being a “vulnerable adult.”
Lyle N. Birchard, 51, pleaded innocent to the charges on Aug. 1 in Addison Superior Court, criminal division. The charges relate to a case investigated by Middlebury Police Det. Kris Bowdish and Det. Lt. Ruth Whitney of the Addison County Unit for Special Investigations.
Addison Superior Court Judge Helen Toor ordered Birchard held without bail following his arraignment. He is currently being lodged at the Marble Valley Correctional Center in Rutland.
Police allege Birchard committed kidnapping by forcing his way into the apartment of a 60-year-old vulnerable woman on April 30. They further allege Birchard put his hands around the victim’s neck, forced her onto her bed, removed the woman’s clothing without her consent, and “placed her in fear of sexual assault.”
Police also contend that Birchard attempted to kiss the same victim during the same alleged April 30 incident.
Bowdish, in her affidavit, described the woman’s disabilities as “mild cognitive delays,” having suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was a toddler. The woman has also been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, according to court records.
And in a separate incident that police believe occurred between March 30 and May 24, Birchard is alleged to have engaged in lewd & lascivious conduct with a 69-year-old woman residing in the same apartment building as the first victim, according to investigators. Specifically, Birchard is alleged to have touched the woman’s breasts and attempted to touch her genitals, according to court records.
It took investigators a few weeks to identify Birchard as their suspect in the case, as both victims had referred to the man as “Michael,” according to court records. It was on June 28 that Bowdish said she learned Birchard had “been committing similar acts in Brandon and Rutland” to the ones that had allegedly been perpetrated against the two Middlebury victims, according to her affidavit.
Court documents show Birchard was arrested for lewd & lascivious conduct both in Brandon on April 9 and in Rutland on June 26.
Birchard’s arrest record also includes arson, drunken driving and various other offenses. He was charged in 2004 with setting a string of fires in Weybridge, Cornwall and Bridport.
He is scheduled to appear at a change-of-plea hearing related to an alleged arson that took place in Middlebury May 31 last year.
Both of the victims in the most recent case identified Birchard as their assaulter after reviewing a series of photos shown to them by police, according to court records.
The first victim told police Birchard had followed her to her apartment and had forced his way in through her front door, according to court records. The woman alleged Birchard had thrown her onto her bed, “demanding sex.”
“She cried after he left and tried to meditate,” the court affidavit states.
The victim was examined at Porter Hospital for possible evidence of a sexual assault, according to police.
The woman told police that Birchard called her the next day “and tried to apologize, and I wouldn’t accept it,” according to court records.
The second victim — described by investigators as potentially having “mild cognitive delays” —  alleged Birchard had visited her apartment twice. She told police Birchard claimed to be a social worker assigned to meet her neighbor — the first alleged victim — whom he alleged was not home at the time.
“He asked me if he could wait inside my apartment and I let him in because he was a social worker,” the woman told police during an interview, according to court records.
Birchard is alleged to have approached the woman and touched her breasts, followed by an attempt to put his hands on her private area.
“I pushed him with both my arms and I was screaming and I finally got up,” the second victim told police, according to Bowdish’s affidavit. “(Birchard) had been on top of me for about 10 minutes.”
Court records indicate Birchard allegedly visited the second victim’s apartment a second time, but the woman was able to get him to leave.
Bowdish interviewed Birchard on Aug. 1 at his probation officer’s office, according to court records. Birchard admitted knowing the first victim but denied the assault allegations, according to court records.

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