By Katy Savage
A Mendon was arrested May 21 after police said he struck a vehicle with an axe and threatened to cut people’s heads off at Gifford Woods State Park in Killington.
Vermont State Police arrested Ralph Schneider, 61 over a dispute that allegedly started about headlights.
Police said Schneider was mad at three people from Pennsylvania — Jacob Fedinez, 21, Jace Hoffman, 19, and Lucas Shreck, 19, for shining headlamps into his campsite. They were in a car owned by Fedinez when Schneider approached them with the weapon, according to an affidavit by Trooper Ryan Gardner. A fourth person they had just met, David Chandler, 42, of Kentucky, was outside their vehicle.
Schneider allegedly pinned Chandler to the door and “got up in his face with an axe,” police said.
Schneider then struck the roof of Fedinez’ vehicle, hitting a ski rack with skis and breaking a binding. The group told police Schneider asked them to get out of the car because “he was going to kill all of them.”
Police found Schneider in a tent near the cars. When police approached him, Schneider said he was homeless.
“There was a strong odor of intoxicants coming from his person,” Gardner said in his affidavit. Schneider told police he asked the group to turn their lights off because they shined right into his tent. He initially denied having an axe, police said. After arresting Schneider, police searched his campsite and found an axe with a wooden handle under a doormat near his campsite.
This wasn’t Schneider’s first encounter with police.
“I was familiar with recent incidents involving complaints of Schneider trespassing at residences in Killington,” Gardner said in his affidavit.
Locals reported Schneider, a musician who formerly ran open mic nights in the area, was acting erratic before he was arrested.
On Mother’s Day weekend, resident Anne Kirby saw Schnieder squatting on her parents property on Wolf Hill Road in Killington.
“I saw a guy sitting on my dad’s sugar shack on one of the chairs there,” Kirby said. “He had the fire pit going, he was pretty comfy looking at the view there I thought, ‘this is a dangerous situation.’”
Kirby’s brother Tom Kirby approached Schneider.
“I said to him, ‘this is private property, you can’t camp here,’” Tom Kirby said.
Tom said Schneider apologized, packed up his belongings and said, “ Nobody likes me.”
The day before he was arrested, Schneider was allegedly in a car accident on Wolf Hill Road. Anne Kirby said he crashed his Mercedes-Benz hatchback.
Schneider is being charged with four counts of aggravated assault and four counts of criminal threatening. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges on May 22.
He is being held at Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland for lack of $5,000 bail. Schneider is scheduled to appear in Vermont Superior Court, Rutland Criminal Division court again in August.