Five faces represent Vermont's most wanted. Two have been caught, but the remaining three fugitives are prime targets for the U.S. Marshals Service.
"It's a real good area to attack to make our communities safer here in Vermont," said David Demag, who was appointed by President Obama to head the U.S. Marshals Service's Vermont Division.
Three months ago he created the Vermont Violent Offender Task Force. The operation expanded the Marshals' mission to include tracking down violent and habitual sex offenders. Statistically -- these criminals pose a greater risk to the public. "The ones who are out of compliance top that list and are more likely to re-offend," Demag said.
Demag said dedicating a full time team to taking down non-compliant sex offenders -- on top of its regular fugitive finding mission -- meant adding a state trooper and a UVM police officer to the task force. But he said the plan is working. Since October they've arrested 39 federal and 40 state fugitives. In 2012 fugitive arrests for state offenses jumped by 70-percent. "This is not a place where fugitives or sex offenders can come and hide," said Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Bill Gerke.
That's the message the task force sent to three high profile out-of-state fugitives on the run in Vermont. The Marshals found Philip Barr hiding out in Hardwick. He was wanted for a Florida murder. Robert Mulkern was arrested in Winsdor for a Maryland sex assault and 149 counts of child pornography. And Clifford Moore was nabbed on his way to the airport, fleeing murder, sex assault and terrorism charges. Although the task force gives priority to federal fugitives identified as the "worst-of-the-worst," they'll also adopt state and local cases if there's a violent component to the crime. The Marshals have the tools, expertise and time that their state counterparts lack. "We are here as a resource for them," Demag said.
Two weeks ago they helped local authorities locate Shane Phillips, a Johnson man wanted for more than a decade for various violent crimes. He was hiding behind a false wall in his family's home. "The spirit and the actual cooperation has never been better than it is presently," Gerke said. The life-long Deputy Marshal said interagency cooperation is the key to slowing down the state's ongoing violent crime and preventing out-of-state organized crime from getting a foothold in Vermont. "Vermont will not harbor that type of activity," he added.
The task force is funded by the federal government. Assets seized from the criminals are then reinvested in state and local law enforcement -- paying overtime if they help with compliance checks -- as well as outfitting them critical safety equipment and vehicles.