A man from Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is behind bars, after being accused of beating a man with a pipe over money, then leaving him to die in a burning house.
Allen Draper, 30, of St. Johnsbury, pled not guilty Tuesday to the accusations against him.
The murder investigation was sparked last week by the discovery of a dead body in the debris left by a raging house fire on Crepeault Hill Road.
Vermont State Police said a large team of investigators and dogged detective work led them to Draper, who walked into court Tuesday with crutches because of a physical disability.
A defense attorney entered not guilty pleas on murder and arson charges that could bring life sentences if Draper is convicted.
The suspect is accused of clubbing 52-year-old homeowner Tim Persons with a radiator pipe, because Persons wouldn’t give him money for drugs.
Draper allegedly then doused old rags in fuel to torch the property, leaving Persons dying inside.
Investigators believe the victim’s volunteer work with a halfway house for men with substance abuse disorders is how the suspect knew about Persons and his home-based carpentry business.
“We ran into a lot of hurdles in this one,” said Vermont State Police Capt. Dan Trudeau, describing the complexity of the investigation.
In a police affidavit, detectives said Draper tried telling multiple stories and blaming other people, but eventually confessed.
Detectives are still stitching together the timeline, Trudeau said, so anyone with potentially helpful information is asked to call the barracks in St. Johnsbury.
“Tim was a very giving person—always with a big smile,” said Pastor Clifton Bullock of Union Baptist Church in Waterford, where Persons worshipped.
Bullock remembered Persons as a man of deep faith who’d always go out of his way to help others.
“We know that he’s with the Lord, and that’s the thing that gives us hope through this process of grieving,” Bullock told necn. “But we are very much hurt by everything that’s taken place.”
There was no comment from relatives of Tim Persons after the arraignment Tuesday.
Allen Draper is currently jailed without bail, at least until his next court hearing.