Wilder robbery suspect, supposedly in custody, arrested again walking down WRJ street


Submitted 2 years ago
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Eric Francis

New Hampshire court let man facing 60 years in Vermont walk out their door

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - One of the suspects in this month’s armed robberies of two convenience stores in Wilder, considered dangerous enough that his initial arrest outside the Walmart in Lebanon was carried out by heavily armed police in tactical gear, was arrested again just by chance on Friday after he was spotted walking along a sidewalk in White River Junction.

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New Hampshire's court system apparently didn’t get the memo that Vermont wanted Travis Popp detained for allegedly driving the getaway car used in the holdups of the Cumberland Farms and the Mobil Smart Shop gas stations in Wilder.

After being brought into court in Lebanon on an outstanding New Hampshire warrant for theft, Popp, 39, was released from the courthouse there and later on Friday afternoon was walking near the town hall in White River Junction after he’d crossed the bridge back into Vermont.

Hartford Police Sgt. Jason Pedro said he was surprised to see Popp was out and about but, since he knew Vermont had an active arrest warrant for Popp, he immediately pulled over and took him into custody without incident.

Travis Popp was back in court, this time in White River Junction, on Monday afternoon

Popp was brought into the courthouse in downtown White River Junction on Monday afternoon and ordered held for lack of $100,000 bail after he entered innocent pleas to two felony counts of being an accessory to assault & robbery with a deadly weapon and one felony count of heroin trafficking. Popp had asked the court to allow him out on just pre-trial conditions because he said his father is dying of lung cancer and only has a couple of weeks to live.

New details of the investigation in the back-to-back armed robberies in Wilder were revealed in court documents accompanying the charges against Popp, including information that police canvassed the Shady Lawn Motel looking for clues in the hours after the Cumberland Farms robbery on January 15th and actually talked to Popp well before he and his friend Justin Hatch had been developed as suspects in the cases.

Officer Daniel Solomita knocked on the door of the room that was being shared by a collection of people including Popp and Hatch, who was later arrested and charged for allegedly being the masked robber who actually carried out the robberies; however, no one answered the door, according to an affidavit filed with the court.

A few minutes later, after Solomita had left the motel, he received a call from Popp who told him that he’d been driving down Hartford Avenue earlier in the evening in “the silver car” that had been parked outside his motel room “when he encountered a `scary’ looking male walking near Stone’s Throw Condominiums and wearing a bandana,” the affidavit recounted, adding, “Popp told Officer Solomita that he stopped and approached the male who then pulled the bandana over his face and ran into the woods.”

Police said they felt that, rather than trying to be helpful, Popp was engaged in an effort to deflect their investigation away from him.

When the Mobil station was robbed two nights later, police received a report that a silver car had been seen waiting to pick up the robber on a side street and two nights after that Hartford Police Sgt. Connie Kelley stopped Justin Hatch, 28, Popp’s roommate at the Shady Lawn, behind the wheel of a silver car near the Bugbee Senior Center and noticed that the shoes Hatch was wearing were a match for footprints that police had photographed in the snow outside the Mobil station that Tuesday evening after the robber fled.

Hatch was arrested on the spot on an unrelated arrest warrant that was already outstanding and, after Hatch confessed that he and Popp had been involved, police applied for a search warrant to hit their room at the Shady Lawn the next day, which turned out to be Inauguration Day, January 20th.

Right as President Trump was being sworn in down in Washington D.C., a large team of officers from several agencies was swarming through two neighboring rooms at the Shady Lawn in a raid that ultimately led to a slate of felony charges against Hatch and the couple next door, Aaron and Kerri Butler, and it also led to Vermont authorities issuing the arrest warrant for Popp charging him with being an accessory to the robberies and to heroin trafficking in conjunction with the Butlers.

In the affidavit filed with the court this Monday, Sgt. Pedro wrote that during the search of the room Popp and Hatch had been staying in at the Shady Lawn police found a black backpack just inside the front door which contained “a black pellet handgun consistent to the weapon used in the Wilder Mobil robbery.”

In the bedroom closet officers also found a white sack with black rope shoulder straps, labeled “State Farm” in red letters that appeared to be the bag the robber handed across the counter as he demanded cash at the Mobil.

Nearby, officers also found a pair of grey Nike running shoes with white soles that appeared similar to what the robber was wearing at Cumberland Farms.

While the raid at the motel was underway, Lindsay Tatham called the Hartford Police Department and spoke with Sgt. Pedro, who noted in his report that he “recognized her voice from numerous prior contacts.”

“She asked why the police were in her room (at the motel) and asked if there was a warrant for her or Popp’s arrest,” Sgt. Pedro recalled. “I informed her that there was not. I asked her to come (to the station) and asked if she was with Popp. She denied that she was. She told me she was `an hour away’ and it would be a while before she could get there.”

“Then Popp began to speak and told me that he was indeed with Tatham. Popp stated that he had been intending to call because he had figured out who committed the armed robberies. He advised that he believed it was Justin (Hatch) who’d been staying with him,” Sgt. Pedro wrote.

Nine minutes later, heavily armed Lebanon police officers swooped in and arrested Popp in the parking lot of the Walmart, lodging him later in the afternoon at the Grafton County jail on an arrest warrant for an unrelated theft that was already outstanding in New Hampshire.

Following Popp’s surprise re-arrest on Friday as he was strolling back towards the Shady Lawn, officers had a chance to sit down with Popp at the Hartford Police station and interview him at length about the events of the past two weeks.

During that interview, “Popp reported that Tatham (and two other men who were only identified by their first names) and him were in his room with Hatch (and) everyone had been telling Hatch to commit the robbery in a joking manner. Popp advised that Hatch `stole’ a blue ski mask and sweatshirt from him and left that night to go buy crack cocaine,” Officer Eric Clifford wrote in his report. “The night of the Wilder Mobil robbery, Popp advised that Hatch requested a ride to the store so that he could steal egg rolls. Popp advised that he parked on a side street…while he waited…Hatch returned to the car yelling `Go! Go!’ and Hatch told him he robbed the Mobil getting $80. They then went back to the Shady Lawn Motel.”

Officer Clifford said that Popp then drew a series of sketches of the Mill Road area leading down from Route 4 to Hartford Village where he said they had driven the next day and thrown out several items used in the robberies, including a large silver and black BB-gun pistol that was used at Cumberland Farms.

Hartford Police Officer Logan Scelza found a blue ski mask near the White River on Sunday, January 22nd

Acting on a tip from residents who reported seeing some suspicious items of clothing blowing along the snowbank on the edge of Mill Road, police had already done a search of the area and Officer Logan Scelza had already recovered a blue ski mask that appeared to have been part of the disguise used during the Cumberland Farms holdup.

Popp, who grew up in Middlebury, Vermont and graduated from Middlebury Union High School in 1996, has an arrest record stretching back to his senior year when he received a suspended 1-to-3 year sentence on a felony conviction for selling marijuana. Since then he has been convicted of over a dozen misdemeanors including cocaine possession, petty larceny, and multiple instances of drunk driving and driving despite a suspended license. He now faces up to a maximum of 60 years in prison if he were to be convicted of all the felony charges now pending against him.

Vermont News can be contacted at vermontnews802@gmail.com (30)

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