By Curt Peterson
For two days last week the Hartland Listserv buzzed with residents’ accounts of a 40-ish short white man in a white or silver pickup truck who appeared at multiple addresses on Oct. 18-19. The driver approached several homeowners requesting “money to buy gas to get to (his) bank in White River Junction.”
Resident Joanna Cassarino noticed the pickup in her driveway and a man looking over her van, which was not for sale. Wisely or not, Cassarino opened her window and engaged the trespasser, who gave her the gas money story. She gave him some change, told him there was no more money in the house or van, and he left.
Lindsay Rose reported a similar incident at Z Botanicals Apothecary on Quechee Road. She told the visitor there was no cash on the premises, but let him take gas from a portable can she had handy.
Charles Martin said the pickup driver visited him on Quechee Road begging for gas money, and said he needed a place for him and his wife to live.
Another, unsigned listserv post said the pickup took off when spotted.
Dan Talbot saw a “gray (silver?) Tacoma” parked across from his house on Quechee Road, and the driver was “acting suspiciously.”
The John Larkin Golf Club on Route 5 in Windsor had a similar visit.
Windsor County Deputy Sheriff Hunter Buchanan told one resident he and Sheriff Ryan Palmer had arrested the serial trespasser last week, when he was driving a white pickup.
Palmer told the Mountain Times the driver of the “phantom truck” was easily identified. “It was a poor homeless guy who has substance issues, and his wife,” Palmer said. “He claimed his actions were totally innocent.”
Palmer said the man, who apparently has at least two vehicles, was cited for operating with a suspended license and sent on his way with a warning not to “panhandle” door-to-door any more. “We also directed the driver to multiple sources he could approach for help, but he didn’t seem that interested in pursuing any of those avenues,” Palmer said.
Palmer said increasing homelessness and drug abuse have become more significant issues for more populated towns, such as Windsor, Hartford and White River, all within the sheriff department’s territory. “People find they’ve dug a hole for themselves, and they can’t get out,” he said. “Directing them to a possible job or substance help is all we can really do.”
Although he doesn’t think this particular set of incidents involved casing homes for possible burglary or robbery targets, and the “pickup visitors don’t pose a threat to public safety, he warns residents to be very cautious when confronted by strangers… Things could go south very quickly,” he said.