Featured, Local News

Police say money at center of dispute between mother and son leading to fatal shooting in Woodstock

By Alan J. Keays/VTDigger

The victim in a deadly shooting outside a home in downtown Woodstock on Tuesday, June 14, was a 67-year-old New Hampshire man who had showed up to support a woman in a dispute with her adult son over money, police said.

Courtesy Vermont State Police
                 Jay Wilson

“The son and the mother had an issue over finances and property, is the best we can tell right now,” Lt. Todd Baxter of the Vermont State Police said Wednesday. “I can say that I don’t know if it was a prolonged period of time but we are learning that this was something of contention.”

The financial disagreement between June Wilson, who’s in her 70s, and her 45-year-old son, Jay Wilson, is among the new details that emerged a day after police said Jay Wilson shot and killed his mother’s friend, Dieter Seier, of Cornish, New Hampshire.

“Honestly, it’s the wrong place, wrong time, and (Seier) was here to support his friend and be here with her,” Baxter said.

An autopsy performed Wednesday at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington determined Seier’s cause of his death was gunshot wounds to the torso. The manner of death was homicide.

Woodstock on Wednesday was bustling, with few open parking places in the village and more than two dozen vendors filling the green in the center of town for a weekly market selling cheese, veggies, ice cream and other foods and crafts.

A day earlier much of the town had been shut down. Police instructed residents in the area to shelter in place with their doors locked and had asked the public to be on the lookout for Jay Wilson in case he had escaped from the home where he had fired on police responding to the initial shooting.

Baxter said June Wilson and Seier had driven to the property at 13 Slayton Terrace, perched above Route 4, on Tuesday to meet with June Wilson’s son, Jay Wilson, who had been living at the residence. June Wilson owns the property but hadn’t been living there, the lieutenant said.

June Wilson and Seier had arrived in separate vehicles, and June Wilson was planning to transfer ownership of one of the cars to her son, Baxter said. “We know that from what we’ve heard through interviews that something sparked into a situation that went downhill quite fast,” Baxter said.

Jay Wilson shot Seier as June Wilson fled to safety at a neighbor’s home without being physically injured, Baxter said. Jay Wilson was among those who called police to report the shooting Tuesday afternoon, he said.

Woodstock Police Sgt. Joseph Swanson responded to the scene and saw Seier down in the driveway, Baxter said. Swanson tried to render aid to him when Jay Wilson, in the doorway of the home, opened fire on the officer, Baxter said. Swanson returned fire and sought cover, according to police, as additional law enforcement were called to the scene.

Police said that Swanson was taken to the hospital for evaluation, where it was discovered he had a “graze wound” on one on his arms. He was treated at the hospital for that wound and later released, according to police.

Police last saw Wilson firing from the doorway as he retreated into the residence, Baxter said. He didn’t respond to phone calls and pleas from police over a bullhorn to surrender himself over the next several hours.

Baxter said police applied for and received judicial approval for a warrant to be able to enter and search the residence. In response to a question about why a warrant was needed, Baxter said that it was Jay Wilson’s “domain” because he lived there.

“(June Wilson) owns the house, but (Jay Wilson) has control of the house,” Baxter said.

Baxter said June Wilson lives in Vermont but declined to specify where.

Members of the state police tactical services unit entered the home around 11 p.m. Tuesday, according to Baxter, and heard a gunshot. They then found Jay Wilson, 45, dead in an upstairs room from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Baxter said.

An autopsy on his body is planned for Thursday.

Details from a police affidavit filed in support of the search warrant weren’t publicly available Wednesday from the state’s court system.

Laird Bradley, owner and principal broker of Williamson Group Sotheby’s International Realty in Woodstock, said Wednesday that he had a series of conversations over time with June Wilson about the property.

“She wanted to put it on the market,” Bradley said of the home in Woodstock, adding they had talked about it just a couple of days ago.

He said he believed that June Wilson planned to reside at another residence she had in Florida where she has been living. Jay Wilson, Bradley said, would then move to a place June Wilson owned in Rutland. He said he thought Jay Wilson was on board with that plan and didn’t appear upset about it.

“There was just nothing that would have led me or anybody else, I think, to conclude there was a problem,” Bradley said. “The bottom line is I certainly didn’t see anything that would indicate the kind of animosity that would have led to the violence that was witnessed the other day.”

Bradley said June Wilson had owned the home in Woodstock for years, moving there when she worked as a teacher at the high school in Woodstock. Woodstock property records did not indicate a sales date.

Members of the Vermont State Police Crime Scene Search Team spent Wednesday processing the scene of the shooting a day earlier, and could be seen going into and out of the home.

A low-flying drone operated by a member of that team circled the area for a short period of time, buzzing around the home’s roof and down the short street. A window on the second-floor of the two-story residence was broken and another pane on the first floor also appeared smashed.

It was unclear what might have broken the windows. After attempts to communicate with Jay Wilson failed, police used alternative tactics, including deploying irritant gas, which is “designed to encourage an occupant of a residence to come out or make contact with the police,” police said in a Wednesday morning release.

A woman who lives near the home and who did not want to be identified said that she had awakened from a nap Tuesday afternoon to a woman she believed to be June Wilson yelling, “Help me, help me.”

The woman said she also heard a series of gunshots that afternoon and police officers swarming around the neighborhood.

She described Jay Wilson as friendly, saying he would wave hello when he saw her. They would exchange greetings at the grocery store when they saw each other, she said. “I never expected anything like this,” she said.

Another close-by neighbor, who also didn’t want to be identified, reported hearing several “pops” of gunfire Tuesday afternoon. An officer soon came to his door and told him to shelter in place and lock his doors.

The man said it wasn’t until later that night, after he heard a single loud bang and realized that the stand-off appeared over, that he dared go outside and take his dog out after several hours inside.

Dail Frates, executive director of Zack’s Place, an enrichment center in Woodstock for people with special needs located down the street from Slayton Terrace, arrived Wednesday at the entrance to the road along with program participant Tanner Dow.

They carried a bouquet of white and pink peonies they said they wanted to drop off on the porch of the home at 13 Slayton Terrace where the shooting happened. However, a state police trooper wouldn’t let them through.

As a result, Frates and Dow left the flowers on the side of the road not far from the residence. Frates said she picked the flowers from her garden.

Both Frates and Dow said they didn’t know anyone involved in the shooting, but felt they needed to do something.

“We wanted to show there’s compassion here,” Frates said.

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