BARRE — A jury has found a man guilty of a lesser assault charge in a case where someone was stabbed through the hand during a drug deal at a coin-op laundry.
Last month, Christopher Anthony Elmer, 35, pleaded not guilty in Washington County criminal court in Barre to a felony count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of cocaine possession earlier this month. He was ordered held without bail at arraignment for the assault charge. Because he was held, state law dictates he must have a trial within 60 days of being held.
The jury was chosen Monday and the trial wrapped up Thursday with closing arguments.
After two hours of deliberation, the jury found Elmer not guilty of aggravated assault, but did find him guilty of misdemeanor simple assault. He was also found guilty on the drug charge.
Elmer was given a sentence of nine to 24 months to serve, with credit for time served.
Prior to sentencing, the victim reported he still doesn’t have full function of his right hand, and it might never return. He said he doesn’t have feeling in two of his fingers.
According to court records, on May 4, a witness called police to report Elmer had stabbed someone. The victim was taken to Central Vermont Medical Center for treatment because police said he had been stabbed through the right hand.
The victim told police he was supposed to meet a woman — Alysha M. Wood — at Soap Opera coin-op laundry on South Main Street in Barre, according to court records.
Wood, 28, has pleaded not guilty to a felony count of accessory after the fact and misdemeanor counts of cocaine possession and narcotics possession. If convicted, Wood faces a maximum of 9 years in prison. She is currently on probation for a drug possession conviction from last year. She is being held by the Department of Corrections at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington.
Police said the victim reported Wood got into his vehicle and then he saw Elmer approach the vehicle from behind the building and knew something was wrong.
The victim reported Elmer reached for him through the driver’s side window and he tried to put up the window. Police said the victim reported he didn’t realize he had been stabbed until he saw blood everywhere. He told police he saw Elmer holding a knife, according to court records.
The victim told police Elmer was upset with him because an ex-girlfriend of Elmer’s had been flirting with the victim.
Police later located Elmer and Wood in a vehicle Wood was driving in Montpelier. Police found what appeared to be crack cocaine and 34 bags of fentanyl on Wood and she was taken into custody, according to court records. Police said they also found cocaine under the passenger’s seat and behind the driver’s seat. Police later learned the victim had gone to the laundry to sell drugs to Wood.
Elmer took the stand Wednesday to give his version of events and said the victim had stabbed himself. Elmer also admitted the cocaine found in the vehicle was his.
All of the people directly involved in the incident, including the victim, are facing criminal charges for alleged incidents that took place as a result of their drug use. During her closing statement, attorney Kathy Strahm, who represents Elmer, pointed out some of the witnesses the state used in the trial were given immunity for their testimony, calling into question their motivation to testify.
Strahm also criticized the police investigation, saying “when it’s a bunch of drug abusers involved, the police just don’t care that much about finding out what really happened.”
She said before police arrived, the victim’s vehicle was driven away from the scene by someone else who was with the victim at the time of the stabbing and police never went looking for that vehicle, only for Elmer and Wood.
“The police just didn’t care. Bunch of druggies, whatever,” she said.
Strahm said Wood testified she knew the stabbing was an accident and Elmer told her to call 911. The attorney said no witnesses reported seeing a knife in Elmer’s hand before the stabbing. He did have a knife in his hand after, but she said that was the victim’s knife.
She said the victim didn’t remember which hand the knife was in when Elmer allegedly stabbed him. The victim testified Elmer had exclaimed the victim had stabbed himself immediately after the incident and she questioned why Elmer would do that if his goal was to assault the victim.
“Nobody does that,” she said, adding Elmer might have said such a thing because the victim had indeed stabbed himself.
Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault said a medical doctor testified how difficult it would be for the victim to stab himself through his hand, as the defense had claimed. He said the doctor reported the injury the victim suffered appeared to be defensive in nature, with the blade going through the palm and coming out the other side of the hand, not an accidental stabbing.
Thibault said a bystander at the laundry testified she had seen Elmer leave the scene in a hurry and with a knife in his hand. Elmer testified he had later tossed the knife out of the vehicle’s window. Thibault said another bystander also saw the knife in Elmer’s hand and no witnesses at the scene reported Elmer saying to call 911 or to get the victim help.
He said on the morning of the stabbing there were messages between Wood and Elmer. He said one of the messages, referring to the victim, said “he’s driving” and the last message before the stabbing took place was from Elmer to Wood and said “get him in your car.”
Thibault said Elmer was “lurking” behind the laundry building because he didn’t want to be seen.
He said Elmer admitted to carrying knives and that buying and selling drugs is a dangerous business. He said Elmer had two other knives in his possession the day of the incident.
Thibault said the blood found on the victim was down his middle section and on his right side. He said there was virtually no blood on the victim’s left side, despite the defense’s claim that the victim reached across himself with his right hand and accidentally stabbed himself with his left hand.
He said the defense has claimed the victim was holding the knife in his left hand which was on the arm rest on the driver’s side door and the victim reached across himself to close the car’s window with his right hand. Thibault said the problem with that story is the victim’s fingers on his right hand would have hit the car’s door before his palm would have been over the blade to cause the stab wound.
He said Elmer left his cellphone in the victim’s vehicle. Strahm pointed out the victim did not initially turn that phone over to police, but instead tried to sell it to someone Elmer knew.
Thibault said Elmer took Wood’s phone and told someone “I think I’m in trouble.”
“He wasn’t incorrect,” Thibault said.
He said Elmer leans his seat back in the vehicle when driving through Montpelier so as to not be spotted.
Thibault asked, “Are those the actions of somebody with nothing to hide, who was just present during an accident?”