By MIKE DONOGHUE
A Burlington man pleaded not guilty in Vermont Superior Court this week to two counts each of unlawful restraint and of simple assault on two women while visiting them at a Charlotte residence known by police as a drug trafficking site.
Dajuan A. Williams, 24, of 47 Willow St. was arrested after Vermont state troopers from both Williston and New Haven barracks and some members of the department’s Tactical Services Unit, the SWAT team, surrounded the apartment house at 224 Greenbush Road in Charlotte on Friday evening.
Williams is charged with restraining Jodi Palmer, 41, and Melissa Rouleau, 33, inside one of the apartments. Williams is also charged with simple assault on Palmer and attempted simple assault on Rouleau.
Witnesses said Williams arrived at the apartment and got into an argument with Palmer when he insisted she sell drugs for him, police said in a court affidavit.
Other witnesses said Harley Palmer, 47, of Charlotte was also kept in the apartment and assaulted after he told Williams to stop hitting the women, court records show, but Palmer denied it.
Williams was held for lack of $50,000 bail on three counts of unlawful restraint and three counts of simple assault, but the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office decided not to pursue the charges with Harley Palmer as the victim.
At his arraignment Monday morning, public defender Sara Puls asked that Williams be released on conditions. Williams said his new wife, Victoria Scripps-Carmody of Charlotte, is pregnant. They married in June, records show.
Deputy State’s Attorney Kelton Olney argued Williams has criminal records in Maine, New Hampshire and Michigan, has no local ties, and is a risk to flee. Williams also failed to appear in court and his probation was revoked in a 2017 stabbing case from St. Albans, records show.
Judge Kevin Griffin, noting four previous felony convictions, said he was willing only to reduce the cash bail to $10,000.
Griffin noted Williams had received a deferred sentence for the St. Albans assault case, but lost the chance to have it wiped off his criminal record when he violated probation terms. He was sentenced to eight to 12 months in jail, records show.
Puls tried to have the latest charges tossed out for lack of proper identification, but Griffin said he thought there was enough evidence.
Williams — who Puls had to urge multiple times to stop talking in court — tried to dispute that he is “Detroit,” the street name several witnesses at the Charlotte apartment used to identify him.
Some witnesses also described Williams, a Detroit native, by his clothing, including a red top, which he was still wearing when his mug shot was taken by police.
Puls said Williams told her he had no idea why he was arrested.
“I didn’t do anything,” Williams told the court during his video arraignment from jail.
The case unfolds
State police said they received a tip from Melici O’Neal on Friday at 6:36 p.m. that her stepmother, Rouleau, was being held hostage by a man known as “Detroit,” who had threatened to kill her. Rouleau asked O’Neal to send the police to the Charlotte apartment.
O’Neal said Rouleau had texted she was being “beat up by a bunch of black guys” who they had guns, a trooper wrote in court papers. O’Neal also got word Palmer was being “beat up” by Detroit, the trooper wrote.
O’Neal described Williams as a “really, really, really bad person,” said Sgt. William Warner, which he interpreted “to mean violent.”
While en route to the apartment, troopers learned from a couple of area police departments that they believed “Detroit” was Williams and that he often carried a gun, police said. One department also indicated Williams was a suspect in a drug case.
The Charlotte address “has been identified as a suspected drug distribution location,” Warner said. Jodi Palmer was present in June during a heroin overdose nearby, police said. “In recent months, state police had received reports from multiple sources of drug-related activity at this residence,” Warner wrote.
Jodi Palmer was also recently involved in a five-vehicle traffic accident that occurred on Greenbush Road in Charlotte which state police say is still under investiagation.
Troopers said they arrived at 7:27 p.m. and established a perimeter. When troopers approached the apartment, they said they could hear people scrambling inside, knocking things over and one man locking a window.
However, police did not break into the apartment for three more hours. At one point, O’Neal expressed frustration about the time lag; she feared her stepmother was dead and she eventually hung up on state police.
At 10:31 p.m., troopers finally breached the door, which was barricaded with furniture, including a couch. The Palmers and Rouleau were in one bedroom. Four men, including Williams, were in a nearby bedroom, police said.
Police said Jodi Palmer was somewhat uncooperative because she was afraid of what “they” would do, motioning to the men who had been detained, including Williams. She did report she’d been held against her will and struck in the head by Williams, police said in court papers.
Williams was placed under arrest and troopers found he had $1,620 in large bills, a photo driver’s license from Maine, a gold chain and a small baggie used for drugs, police said.
A second man, detained in handcuffs in a cruiser shortly after police arrived, had said little to troopers. The 21 year-old insisted “he came to the residence to smoke some weed and to hook up with girls,” but never got inside because police arrived first, court records show.
The people inside the apartment had been told more than five times over a public address system linked to a police cruiser to come out. While the announcement was being made, somebody in a nearby white Nissan with Vermont plates began honking the horn until the announcement ended, police said.
Once the troopers pushed their way in past the blockaded door, Trooper Clay Knight wrote, “I was overwhelmed with the odor of marijuana. There was also a heavy smoke from inside the residence.”
Palmer and Rouleau were the first two to exit. Rouleau thanked the police and said “she was scared for her life,” police wrote.
‘Scared for her life’
Police learned Williams had arrived at the apartment and began arguing with Palmer about selling drugs for him, Knight wrote. At one point, Williams punched Palmer in the head with a closed fist, police said. Rouleau reported when she told Williams not to hit Palmer, he forced Rouleau onto a bed and held a bong over her head, court records indicate.
“Rouleau said she was scared for her life and believed she was going to be killed during this incident,” wrote Knight.
Rouleau said she and Palmer both asked Williams over and over to leave, but he refused, Knight wrote, and told people to stay inside when police arrived. Williams said police would eventually leave. They didn’t.
Palmer said “Detroit” had a child with one of her friends. Palmer said that she had allowed the friend to stay at the apartment lately, and that “Detroit” had abused her, Knight said. “Detroit” thought the friend was cheating on him at the apartment.
Rouleau said she and Jodi Palmer wanted to leave, but were not allowed, Warner wrote. Rouleau said they wanted to go get food, but Williams said he would send somebody to get it, police said. She said the other men treated Williams as if he was in charge.
While troopers took Williams to the barracks in Williston, he maintained he had done nothing wrong. He said he did not assault anybody or stop them from leaving, Warner wrote.
Past Vermont problems
Court records show the stabbing in St. Albans was reported after Williams agreed to pay a group of St. Johnsbury residents with drugs in exchange for a ride to St. Albans, police said. A scuffle ensued on Lower Welden Street and Jake Granger III was stabbed in the left side of his chest, police said.
Williams fled to Westbrook, Maine, where police found him. He tried to run, but was cornered by a federal task force and local officers, who used Tasers to subdue him because he resisted arrest.
He was wanted in Franklin County for the attack on Granger and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and simple assault.
Williams was also wanted in Michigan and Maine on charges of drug trafficking and domestic violence, police said at the time.
He also was arrested in 2015 on three counts of selling heroin, plus conspiracy and giving false information to police, and was sentenced to 13 to 29 months, according to court records.
Other charges against Williams — cruelty to a child under age 10, cocaine possession and marijuana possession — were dismissed, records show.