By Alan J. Keays/VTDigger
RUTLAND — A Rutland man who told police about a key piece of an investigation that had not been publicly released during a nearly 10-day probe into the slaying of a Rutland woman is being held without bail after pleading not guilty to second-degree murder charges.
Shawn LaPlant, 28, told police how 44-year-old Alicia Harrington had died, according to a police affidavit filed Friday, March 15, in Rutland County Superior criminal court in support of the second-degree murder charge against him. Harrington’s body was found on March 6 in her car parked on a remote road in Proctor some 10 miles from her home.
“The defendant advised that he never strangled Alicia and has not seen her in person in the past three months,” Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Samuel Truex wrote. “The defendant said he never told anyone he strangled Alicia.”
Truex added that the state’s chief medical examiner’s office had determined that Harrington’s death was a homicide and she was strangled, but “This information has not been released to the public during this investigation.”
LaPlant also denied having an affair with Harrington, a married mother with a son. However, Harrington’s husband, Jaime Harrington, had told investigators that his wife had told him that she did have an affair with LaPlant, but it had ended and she was in fear of LaPlant.
Investigators have been tight-lipped about the probe from the start. Alicia Harrington went missing on March 5. Her husband contacted police after she failed to pick up her son from school and never arrived back at her Rutland home.
The next morning, she was found dead inside her vehicle, parked along a remote stretch of Florence Road in nearby Proctor.
LaPlant appeared Friday, March 15 in a Rutland courtroom to face the murder charge, following his arrest earlier in the morning.
LaPlant pleaded not guilty to the charge that could send him to prison for the rest of his life, if convicted. Judge Thomas Zonay ordered LaPlant held without bail pending a hearing on the strength of the evidence in the case.
Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy argued during the hearing that LaPlant should remain jailed, in part, because he posed a danger to those who have made statements implicating him in Harrington’s murder.
She also said evidence shows that LaPlant had hidden evidence and also planned the murder, pointing to a review of the search history on his cellphone.
“He was searching things like how to use chloroform, how long it takes for someone to lose consciousness if you use chloroform,” the prosecutor said of LaPlant. “This is someone who thought about this crime and then carried it out.”
She added that LaPlant has an apartment in Rutland, but he does not have a job. “He describes his life as basically drinking beer and sleeping,” the prosecutor said.
Attorney Christopher Montgomery, representing LaPlant, said his client, who receives disability payments, had little money to post bail. He tried unsuccessfully to have LaPlant be released on conditions, including that he not contact witnesses in the case and abide by a curfew.
“He has no criminal record,” the defense attorney added.
According to a nine-page affidavit filed Friday in support of the murder charge, Truex, the lead investigator in the case, wrote that at least two friends of LaPlant provided statement implicating him in Harrington’s death.
On Thursday, the detective wrote, Dionna Galiano told investigators that LaPlant had told her he killed Harrington, speaking to her in Rutland on the night that “it” happened.
“She described ‘it’ as the defendant strangling Alicia and killing her,” the affidavit stated.
Galiano said LaPlant told her he was going to sell her marijuana that day, but they got into an argument, Truex wrote.
According to Galiano, LaPlant recounted to her telling Harrington, “If I can’t have you, nobody can,” the affidavit stated.
Galiano then said LaPlant told her that he strangled Harrington, the investigator wrote.
“(Galiano) also described him as nervous, shaking and cold,” Truex added. “The defendant told her that ‘this is what love does.’”
She also reported to police that LaPlant had “got rid of stuff.”
Also Thursday, investigators questioned EJ Cormia at the state police barracks in Rutland. Cormia said to them that LaPlant told him that he had killed Harrington, the affidavit stated.
According to Cormia, Truex wrote, LaPlant told him that he and Harrington had fought for about 15 minutes on a bed inside his Rutland apartment and he then choked her “until her lips turned blue.”
After killing Harrington, Cormia told investigators that LaPlant explained to him how he used a sleeping bag to take her body from his upstairs apartment to her parked car outside.
LaPlant then told him about driving to Proctor, parking the car on the side of a road and taking Harrington’s body out of the sleeping bag, leaving her on the back seat of the car, Truex wrote in the affidavit.
Cormia said LaPlant told him he walked about a mile from the car and “discarded” the sleeping bag, the affidavit stated. Investigators say that a sleeping bag was later found about a half-mile from where the vehicle had been parked.
Cormia also said that, along with LaPlant, he helped throw out some of the items belonging to Harrington, including a shoe, an earring and a sock, that had been left behind in LaPlant’s apartment, the affidavit stated.
When her body was found in her vehicle, Harrington was missing those items.
Later on Thursday, police were granted a warrant to record a conversation between Cormia, who agreed to wear a wire, and LaPlant.
Cormia met LaPlant on West Street in Rutland at night and they walked together to a nearby convenience store, and when Cormia asked about getting “their stories straight,” LaPlant replied, “I really don’t want to talk too much about it,” the affidavit stated.
“Cormia asked if anyone else knew what had happened and the defendant denied anyone additionally having been told,” according to the affidavit. “During the discussion the defendant made no denial to Cormia nor did he provide any information, details or direct admissions.”
Police had been eyeing LaPlant since early into the investigation.
When Alicia Harrington was reported missing March 5, Truex wrote in the affidavit, her husband told police that he found the last call she placed was to LaPlant’s number.
A Rutland City Police officer went to LaPlant’s apartment that night. LaPlant agreed to a search of the residence, but Harrington was not inside, according to the affidavit. LaPlant told the officer that his last contact with Harrington was about a week previous.
The next day, several witnesses described a man walking on the Florence Road in Proctor on the night Harrington went missing near where her car was later located, and the witness descriptions of that man appeared to match LaPlant, the affidavit stated.
Police met LaPlant later that day, and he acknowledged a friendship with Harrington for about 2½ years, “but denied ever being in a sexual relationship with Alicia,” the affidavit stated.
LaPlant added that Harrington had not been to his apartment in the past two weeks, telling police that she had also recently blocked him on Facebook, where they often chatted.
“The defendant said he told Alicia that he loved her and missed her, but only as (a) friend,” the affidavit stated.
LaPlant also said he had no idea where Harrington could be,” Truex wrote in the affidavit, and that he never left Rutland on the day she was reported missing.
“He said his routine was the same each day,” the affidavit stated. “He said after he woke up, he drank his coffee and played video games.”
Police said that in a later interview with Jamie Harrington, he told them that he had found out through Facebook messages in October that his wife was having an affair with LaPlant.
Jaime Harrington said he confronted his wife and she confirmed it, the affidavit stated. He said when his wife decided to break off that relationship, LaPlant sent him a text message asking to speak with him, the affidavit stated.
“Jaime sent the defendant a message that said he didn’t want to speak with him and to leave Alicia and his family alone,” the affidavit stated.
About a week later, in November, Jaime Harrington said his wife was late getting home from a house-cleaning job so he went to look for her, and found her car parked outside LaPlant’s apartment.
He said he sent his wife a text and she responded that she was only there to buy marijuana.
Jaime Harrington said his wife later told him she needed to go back to LaPlant’s apartment one more time because she owed him $30 for the pot.
A couple of days later, Jaime Harrington told police, his wife did go back to LaPlant’s apartment to pay that $30. It was then, Jaime Harrington said, that his wife told him that LaPlant had threatened to kill her and then himself.
Jamie Harrington said he “begged” his wife to report the incident to police or seek a restraining order, but she was too scared of LaPlant and never reported it, according to the affidavit.
Then, just two weeks before Alicia Harrington went missing, Truex wrote in the affidavit, LaPlant walked in front of the couple’s home on State Street and Jaime Harrington said his wife was scared and locked all the doors.
“Jaime said Alicia then suggested that she buy a handgun for protection,” the affidavit stated.
Soon after, they went to a gun show in Rutland and Jaime Harrington told police his wife found a 9mm handgun she liked, but they didn’t buy it because it was too expensive and they wanted a better price.
The next weekend, he added, they bought a car and didn’t have money to continuing shopping for a gun.
“He said Alicia decided to sign up for self-defense classes instead to protect herself,” the affidavit stated.
Following LaPlant’s arraignment Friday, Kennedy, the prosecutor, declined to comment when asked if any charges would be filed in the case against anyone else.