Client admits to drugging workers — (The Barre Montpelier Times Argus)

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The Barre Montpelier Times Argus

August 18, 2007

By Daphne Larkin Times Argus Staff

BARRE – The man accused of drugging workers at the Hill Top House, a home for developmentally disabled offenders in Plainfield that shut down in June after another resident escaped and randomly attacked a local woman in her car, was convicted last week.

Robert Harris, 47, a developmentally disabled convicted sex offender, pleaded guilty on Aug. 6 in Vermont District Court to one count of aggravated assault for putting his anti-depressant medication, fluoxetine, in two workers’ coffee, and was sentenced to serve six months to five years.

In the plea deal, prosecutors dropped the second charge of aggravated assault.

Harris was initially accused of giving his medication to two employees, Curtis Lynch and Chris Lehoe, at the residential home once a day for four or five days in November without their knowledge.

According to the affidavit, Lynch went to the emergency room at Cottage Hospital in Woodsville, N.H., on Nov. 6 because he believed he was having a heart attack. There, Lynch was observed for five hours and diagnosed with cardiac asphyxia. Also, Lynch’s blood work indicated levels of anti-depressants although Lynch did not take anti-depressants.

“His doctor advised that it appeared that he had been taking antidepressants for quite a long time,” according to the affidavit.

Vermont State Police Trooper Heather Hunnewell wrote in the affidavit that “(Harris) did that because he was mad at them. … Harris advised that he hoped that by doing that, they would ‘get sick or fall asleep.'”

“Harris advised that even though there were several employees working at the Hill Top House, he chose to only harm Lynch and Lehoe because he felt they were mean to him … abusing him by yelling at him and not letting him do certain things,” according to the affidavit.

Harris is serving his time at the Northeast Regional Correctional Facility in St. Johnsbury. He was held in lieu of bail since he was arraigned in January.

The conviction violates Harris’ probation from Chittenden County, where he was convicted three times of felony charges of lewd and lascivious conduct in 1994, 1995 and 2001. He was subsequently ordered to register on the Vermont Sex Offender Registry.

Harris also has eight charges of violation of probation and three misdemeanor convictions, one each for retail theft, prohibited sexual acts and simple assault.